January 30, 2015

Running Backs – Snaps Back and Gone

Wayne Gallman runs for a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter at Wake Forest

Finally we hit a position were Clemson has a vast majority of 2014 snaps returning along with Zac Brooks coming off a redshirt season.

While the running game improved as the season went on, there is still plenty of work to be done in the areas of blocking and blitz pick up.

Assuming Choice and Brooks remain healthy Gallman won’t have to shoulder a high percentage of the load as he did in the latter portion of the 2014 season.2014 RB Snaps

Linebackers – Snaps Back and Lost

BB2 2014

Clemson loses 1,206 2014 snaps and two extremely athletic linebackers in Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward. There’s some talent returning and Dabo Swinney is high on players in the pipeline, but the experience lost makes this a position to keep an eye on in 2015.
2014 LB Snaps

Looks at other positions: Offensive Line Defensive Line, Quarterback

From Morris to Elliott: Here’s An Area for Improvement

TE Bowl

Below is a look at Clemson’s 2014 average points per drive by starting field position in 10 yard increments.  The Morris offense was great in open space with lots of room in front and not so great in short yardage situations or, as the graph below shows, when starting in opponents territory.

The Tigers averaged only 0.1 points less when starting between their 21 and 30 than when starting 30-40 yards further down field between the opponents 49 and 40 and only 2.3 points per drive when starting between the opponents 39 and 30.

2014 Pts Per Starting Field Position Clemson

Elliott’s only called plays in one game so the sample size is tiny, but the Tigers fared no better than the other 12 games of 2014.  Two drives started in Oklahoma territory and resulted in a missed field goal (started at OU 20, 4 plays -5 yards) and a punt (started at OU 45, 3 plays -3 yards). Two drives, 7 plays, -8 yards, 0 points.

There’s definitely room for improvement.

Quarterback – Snaps Lost and Returning

Clemson vs South Carolina State during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C.

Who’s #2? We all know who will begin 2015 as the starting quarterback.  The bigger question is after suffering three injuries that caused him to miss time (including the spring game) in 2014 will Deshaun Watson make it through 2015 from start to finish (whenever that may be).  For that reason the biggest question for me heading into the spring is who will back up Watson.

As we saw last season with Clemson (and Ohio State for that matter) the answer to that question can have huge ramifications for your season and program.

QB Snaps 2014

Whoever is #2 will have minimal or 0 snaps under their belt and certainly 0 meaningful snaps.

Vote in the poll to the right for who you think will be the #2 quarterback in 2015.

Looks at other positions: Offensive Line & Defensive Line

Defensive Line – Snaps Lost and Coming Back

Shaq Lawson

Defensive lines like the one Clemson sported in 2014 stem from talent, recruiting, “want to”, coaching and perhaps some patience as raw freshmen turn into seasoned vets. It’s a never ending cycle in college football and while the Tigers have pieces returning along the defensive line the losses are significant.

Many wonder who will replace Vic Beasley.  I wonder who will replace Grady Jarrett.  Undersized, undervalued and underrated, Jarrett was the heart and soul in the middle of the top rated Clemson defense.  One piece of evidence of Jarrett’s domination can be found in the number of times he was responsible for stopping an opponent on 3rd and 4th downs. DL Snaps 2014

Offensive Line – Snaps Lost and Coming Back

Clemson University Tigers football at North Carolina State University at Carter Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina, Thursday September 19, 2013.

Here’s a look at the 2014 snaps along the offensive line broken out by expected returnees and the departed.

Numbers include 2014 snaps only (not career snaps) and only players that played at least one snap.

Meant to be more of a gauge of recent experience vs. depth (i.e. does not include redshirts or incoming freshman).
OL Snaps 2014

Final 2014 Quarterback Drive Charts

DW Super

These metrics favor Deshaun Watson, of course, but there is one to keep in mind when thinking ahead to next season. With few exceptions Cole Stoudt faced the tougher defenses on the schedule (at least statistically), which is reflected in the “Defensive Ranking” column.  The average defense (per drive) that Stoudt faced was 49.0 while Watson faced defenses with an average ranking of 97.1.

You could argue that Stoudt faced defenses that were twice as difficult as Watson, several on the road. Stoudt played most of Georgia (17), most of South Carolina State (150), most of Louisville (6), most of Georgia Tech (79), all of Boston College (11), Syracuse (26) and Wake Forest (40), Georgia State (116) and Oklahoma (51).  Meanwhile Watson got majority of snaps against Florida State (61), UNC (117), N.C. State (46) and South Carolina (92).

Deshaun Watson

Watson Drives 2014 Final

That’s not to say Watson wouldn’t have performed better than Stoudt given the opportunity against the better teams, we don’t know that (though we can assume). What we know is Stoudt faced better defenses, in general.

For reference, Watson averaged 6.8 yards per play which would be in the top 5 in the nation in 2014 and if he is able to accomplish that in 2015 good things will no doubt happen.

Cole StoudtStoudt Drives 2014 Final

All that said, Watson had better numbers in all the major categories: Yards per play, explosive play %, points per drive, % of drives that ended in touchdowns and third down conversions.

Notes:

  • The highlight package I posted previously shows why we all should be excited about Deshaun Watson, but maintaining a 6.8 yard per play average as a full time starter may be difficult (as pointed out above that would be top 5ish).
  • I removed some lesser interesting columns for readability.
  • Drives included are only those that Stoudt and Watson quarterbacked the entire series.  Therefore, drives started by Watson and finished by Stoudt against Louisville, Georgia Tech and South Carolina are excluded.
  • These numbers may not equal the yards and plays on the official game stats for several reasons. For example, if Clemson starts at the 25, gains 60 yards of offense and the opponent has a 15 yard penalty the Tigers are officially credited with a 75 yard drive. The numbers here reflect the total offense on a drive – 60 in the case above.  The opposite happens if Clemson has an offensive penalty – yards are added (assuming they are gained back).  Starting from the 25, having a 5 yard penalty and ultimately scoring a touchdown would result in 80 yards here (though officially listed as 75). There are other reasons for differences, but these are the main ones.

Can’t Wait!

Clemson Football -  Deshaun Watson

A look at a few of the passing highlights from Deshaun Watson’s freshman season starting with the second pass of his college career when the color analyst said, “Wow!”

Tackles by Class

Clemson at Florida State U  23-17 loss to FSU  Clemson's Mackensie Alexander looks toward the Florida State sideline after breaking up a pass to Florida State's Rashad Greene during the second quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida.

The numbers below includes tackles from the top 20 tacklers (total tackles) from 2014 and really shows the veteran leadership at every level – line, linebackers and backs – that helped Clemson register the top ranked defense in the nation.

Only two freshmen, Mackenzie Alexander and Dorian O’Daniel, were in the top 20 in tacklers which is reflected in the 7% total of tackles for that class.

Tackles by Class 2014

Rushing, Passing and Receiving by Class

Clemson Football - Wayne Gallman

Below is a look at the percentage of yards contributed by class for rushing, passing and receiving.  The biggest takeaway is that it looks like the running game is in good hands for the foreseeable future, though continued depth development is important.

Obviously, had things turned out differently the passing numbers would be more heavily skewed to a certain freshman, perhaps along the same lines as the rushing numbers.

Mike Williams led the sophomore receivers with a little help from Germone Hopper and Jordan Leggett.
2014 Rushing by Class2014 Passing by Class2014 Receiving by Class