Tony Elliott is done with social media for the time being.
Clemson’s offensive coordinator is off Twitter and Instagram even if he is technically on both applications. He has accounts that he usually checks from time to time, but Elliott knows there’s plenty of criticism being pointed in his direction given the way the Tigers have performed on that of the ball so far. So he’s chosen to limit his exposure to all of the negativity on the outside.
“That’s kind of their space,” Elliott said of fans’ criticism, “and I’m going to let them have their space.”
One of the perceived knocks on his offense — one that’s averaging just 12.6 points against FBS competition and ranked no better than 99th nationally in rushing, passing, total yards and first downs — is a lack of creativity. Elliott said he knows that because it’s typically the default complaint when any offense isn’t performing up to expectations.
“Well you’ve got to be able to execute the fundamentals first and foremost,” Elliott said.
That’s where the Tigers are having too many breakdowns, Elliott said, which also makes improvement in those areas the top priority as the Tigers try to get things turned around starting Saturday when Boston College visits Memorial Stadium.
“The biggest thing is we’re just out of sync right now,” Elliott said. “It’s 10 guys and then one guy not doing the right thing. Or it’s nine and we’ve got two guys not doing the right thing. Some of that can be attributed to youth. Game speed is a little bit different even though the practice speed is still pretty fast here for us on our practice field, it still happens fast in the game and it takes time to be able to work through those things to be able to anticipate.”
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei spent part of his meeting with reporters Monday again shouldering the bulk of the blame for the offensive ineptitude after going 12 of 26 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson’s 27-21 double-overtime loss to North Carolina State over the weekend, but Elliott was quick to point out it’s also on Uiagalelei’s supporting cast, particularly the offensive line, to help make the young quarterback more comfortable. Uiagalelei added 63 yards with his legs against the Wolfpack and was easily the leading rusher for an offense that continues to struggle mightily getting anything on the ground (126.2 rushing yards per game).
The offensive line is still trying to find the right combination. Sophomore Paul Tchio got the start at left guard Saturday in place of true freshman Marcus Tate. Hunter Rayburn also rotated in there, and Elliott said the Tigers are looking at the possibility of moving backup tackle Mitchell Mayes inside to help on the interior.
Whether it be miscommunication along the line, missed blocking assignments or misreads by the backs, the Tigers continue to make fundamental mistakes in games that aren’t necessarily showing up in practice. Elliott said he’s seen improvement in some of those miscues while more have popped up based on the different alignments of each defense the Tigers have seen to this point.
Even receivers’ blocking has been spotty at times when Clemson tries to get the perimeter runs and screen game going, something Elliott said has to be a collective effort when it comes to emphasizing its importance.
“I think where we’ve got to get better is just finishing off blocks,” Elliott said. “I think we initially get things started, but we’ve got to play all the way through the whistle and finish those blocks because that’s what results in those explosive plays. I think of one in particular (against N.C. State) on a screen to (Justyn) Ross. We just threw a bubble out there to Ross, and he makes a jump cut. And if we hold that block a little bit longer, then he’s going to take off and he’s going to run But we don’t, and we get tackled by the ankle.
“We’ve just all got to do a better job of the details, the footwork, the hand placement, the understanding and then just that relentless finish all the way through the whistle. And then just understanding that we have to do a good job as coaches, too, of pointing out to those guys how that extra effort can turn into big plays in the run game.”
For a relatively young offense, it starts with mastering the basics.
“That’s where we’ve got to get better,” Elliott said.