ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit went in-depth this week on the problems he sees with Clemson’s offense, which mustered only three points and 180 total yards – including just 2 yards rushing – while allowing seven sacks in the Tigers’ 10-3 loss to Georgia last Saturday in Charlotte.
Herbstreit gave Georgia’s stout defense its due when discussing what’s wrong with Clemson’s offense, though he pointed out that D.J. Uiagalelei’s first game as the Tigers full-time starter didn’t go like many expected it would considering how well Uiagalelei performed in his two starts against Boston College and Notre Dame as a true freshman last season while filling in for Trevor Lawrence.
“They’re a great defense. They are legitimate, worth all the hype,” Herbstreit said during a conversation with ESPN host Matt Barrie on The ESPN College Football Podcast. “But Clemson’s got some things they’ve got to figure out without Trevor Lawrence, without mainly Travis Etienne. D.J. Uiagalelei is going to be a great player. We all know that, right. But I think because of the way he played last year when he was in for Trevor when he had COVID against BC and Notre Dame and he looked so good, I think we just all assumed he would just be that guy, no problem. And maybe he will be. Maybe it was just great Georgia, I don’t know. We’ll see.”
As Herbstreit was calling the Clemson-UGA game with Chris Fowler on ABC last Saturday night, Herbstreit was wondering why Uiagalelei didn’t use his legs more often in the running game than he did.
“I kept saying, why he is not running the ball?” Herbstreit said. “Why is he not taking off, whether it’s a designed run or … I kept kind of showing, like, look at these running lanes on these passes. They’re playing Man Under (coverage), there’s gaping holes. Trevor and Deshaun (Watson) are gone for 25 yards, and maybe that’ll be his film study.
“We just talked about how you get better watching film. Maybe that’ll be something that he and Tony Elliott talk about – hey man, you’ve got to be a willing runner, we need you to run. We’re still trying to figure out our offensive line, still trying to figure out the running backs. You’ve got to be part of the running game and we need your feet. Maybe that’ll be the area that we see him grow. Because I feel like if he can do that, you get some first downs, you get the tempo going, that’s Clemson. Now you’ve got the defense on their heels, then you get aggressive.”
Herbstreit also thinks another issue with Clemson’s offense is that it is missing a true slot receiver like the weapons the Tigers have had out of the slot in the recent past.
“The other thing I’ll say is the great Clemson offenses over the years had that Amari Rodgers, Hunter Renfrow, Artavis Scott – that guy in the inside that was just a pain the butt,” Herbstreit said. “Get in those option routes on third-and-6, and you always had to leverage him and you had to account for him, and when you do that, because it’s a real threat, now you open up these vertical shots with these tall receivers. It feels like all they have are these big, huge, tall receivers, and they’re all great, probably all go to the NFL. But they need a guy that can get in there and wreak havoc in the inside of the defense, especially if the linebackers are blitzing like Georgia was. Right now, they don’t seem to have that.”
As Herbstreit noted, Joseph Ngata stepped up against Georgia. The junior receiver recorded his first career 100-yard receiving game, finishing the game with a career-high six catches for 110 yards.
However, Herbstreit believes the Tigers must run the ball more effectively and stretch the field in the passing game in order to put a real scare into opposing defenses.
“Ngata gave them a little bit of a threat,” Herbstreit said. “Late in the game, he started to make a few catches, but they were contested and he had to hold on and be brave, which he is. But if you can’t run the ball and you don’t have vertical threat, what am I afraid of?”
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