When a team is winning, everything seems okay. And for the most part, everything is great at Clemson.
Few teams are winning as much as the Tigers are in the Dabo Swinney era. And though Clemson has lost just three games since the start of the 2018 season, what happened in those three losses have magnified some areas of concerns.
On the offensive side, those areas are pretty clear. In losses to Ohio State and Notre Dame last year, and in the 2020 National Championship Game to LSU, Clemson struggled to run the football with any effectiveness, especially in short yardage situations. They were not good on third down and they were not efficient in the red zone.
“I need to do a better job to have some variety in the plans to help those guys in those tough situations. We learned from that,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said this past spring.
These are areas the offensive coaches concentrated on during spring drills and they will work to continue those things when fall camp starts later this summer.
Elliott used last year’s loss at Notre Dame as an example of how he could do a better job from a play calling standpoint. The Irish held Clemson to a season low 34 rushing yards, which he took the blame for because he did not have a backup plan in place from a schematic standpoint.
When the Tigers played Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game, he was prepared and so was the game plan.
“You look at the championship game, we fixed those problems technically, but then we also had enough schematic things to help those guys out,” Elliott said.
Elliott admitted similar issues came up in the Boston College game and the Ohio State game as well.
“We just have to make sure we are constantly pushing the envelope and making sure we have enough, and that we never go into a game without having enough,” he said.
One place the Tigers need more help is on the offensive line. Like Swinney admitted in the spring, Elliott says the Tigers need to build some quality depth on the O-Line. That was an issue in games where they struggled to run the football.
“The depth on the offensive line, we will really have to grow that depth up,” he said. “When you look at some of the struggles on the outside from the running game perspective. There were really three games where we were ineffective, rushing for less than four yards per clip.”
Two of those games resulted in losses, and Clemson does not want to go down that road again.
Clemson will kick off the 2021 season on Sept. 4 against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
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