ESPN analyst on Clemson: 'I, for one, don’t think the sky is falling'

ESPN analyst on Clemson: 'I, for one, don’t think the sky is falling'


ESPN analyst on Clemson: 'I, for one, don’t think the sky is falling'


An ESPN analyst recently gave his big-picture thoughts on the state of Clemson’s football program, as well as an overview of where things stand with the Tigers on both side of the ball in the spring.

Greg McElroy doesn’t think the sky is falling in Clemson and believes Dabo Swinney’s program is still built to contend for championships year after year. However, McElroy isn’t sure whether the Tigers can win it all in the near future.

“I, for one, don’t think the sky is falling. I, for one, don’t think they’ve regressed as a program,” McElroy said on his Always College Football show. “Now, are they going to win national championships here in the next year or two? It’s tough for me right now to tell you yes without question they are going to win championships in the next couple years. I don’t know. But I don’t think this team is done contending on an annual basis. I don’t.

“Now, they gotta get better quarterback play, they gotta get more out of their offense, they’ve got to find some significant difference makers at wide receiver. But you look at some of their roster last year, they’re pretty young, especially at wide receiver, and they might be well positioned to have a lot of success at that position here not just in ’23, but also in ’24. Cade Klubnik’s going to have some young guys that he took the field with last year, and he’s only going to be able to continue to develop that rapport with those young guys as they get a little bit older.”

Offensively, McElroy is optimistic about the potential of Clemson on that side of the ball under new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley with the system he brings and having Cade Klubnik to work with at quarterback.

“Garrett Riley comes over from TCU. Much of the praise heaped upon him last year was because of how well Max Duggan played,” McElroy said. “He’s going to be in charge trying to get the most out of Cade Klubnik, and I think he will. His system is extremely quarterback-friendly. They’re going to use some tempo, they’re going to utilize the run game, it’s going to be about dictating what the defense does and you have to make a choice. Every time Garrett Riley puts a formation on the field, the defense has to make a choice – do you take away the run or do you take away the pass. If you take away the pass, guess what, we’re going to run it down your throat with Will Shipley. You take away the run, perfect, we’re going to throw it, we’re going to win our one-on-ones with our perimeter skill and our weapons that should be improved here in this upcoming season.

“That’s what Garrett Riley’s going to do, and the fact that Cade Klubnik is an effective runner only compounds the challenges to try to defend this new-look Clemson offense. So, I’m very optimistic about what they’re going to be offensively. I think they’re in a really good spot. I think it’s a perfect hire for Dabo Swinney to allow Garrett Riley to step right in and kind of reinvigorate this group offensively.”

With that said, McElroy wants to see Clemson create a more physical presence along the offensive line and in the run game.

“This has not always been a super physical offensive line unit. They’ve never been that way. It’s just not who they are. But they have to be that way moving forward,” he said. “You have to be able to run the football. They need to be more physical, they need to get downhill with more urgency and the offensive line needs to play at a level that’s much more consistent and much higher than they did throughout the course of this past season where they had some good moments but they also had some forgettable moments as well.”

As for Clemson’s defense, McElroy isn’t concerned a bit despite the departures of some big-time players.

“Moving to the defensive side of the football, I’m not worried at all,” he said. “I know you lose Trenton Simpson, I know you lose Myles Murphy, I know you lose Bryan Bresee. I’m just not worried. I look at culturally what has been built on that side of the ball at all three levels, I’m not concerned. They might not have the frontline, take-over-the-game defensive line talent that they’ve had at times in the past, but they’re still going to be really good. Still have some really talented players at all three levels. It’d be great if you had two or three more Trenton Simpsons waiting in the wings. Maybe they do. At this point, that’s a little bit of an unknown. I like some of their young players that played a bunch of snaps last year, and I really like Wes Goodwin, the defensive coordinator. He does a phenomenal job of creating some advantages for his guys and creating matchups for his guys defensively.

“So, I think they’re in a really good position. You also have some young players on the perimeter at corner that should only take an additional step here coming up this year. So defensively, Clemson should be in great shape. But this offense in the spring needs to come together, needs to establish an identity and needs to continue to emphasize being physical in the run game. If they can do those three things, it’ll be a successful spring for the Clemson Tigers.”

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