By and large Clemson fans and some of those that write about Clemson assume that 2013 is likely to be the Tigers year – the year the youth of 2011 matures, the year with a senior quarterback who will be in his third year of starting, the year of 4 returning starters on the offensive line and the year that the young defensive line of 2012 becomes a force with some key additions.
I look at it another way, albeit the glass half empty way. I see 40% of the snaps on the offensive line (Dalton Freeman), 70% of the running back snaps (Andre Ellington), 67% of the tight end snaps (Brandon Ford) and, assuming Nuk Hopkins turns pro, 56.3% of the wide receiver snaps departing.
While you can never overestimate the value of a veteran quarterback with nearly 2,000 career snaps under his belt, the questions remain about who is going to carry the ball and can Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant step up from role players to capable replacements for Nuk Hopkins and, to a lesser extent, Jaron Brown.
% of Snaps Returning and Lost in 2013
Returning Snaps –
The coaches rave about Ryan Norton at center, but with 277 career snaps (the equivalent of about 3 games) under his belt he has yet to prove himself on the field against ACC level competition – not to mention the likes of Georgia and South Carolina.
The loss of Freeman also means the dean of the offensive line becomes Brandon Thomas who has 1,461 less career snaps than Freeman does.
Sam Cooper performed admirably in spot situations in 2012. It’s difficult to imagine Cooper or Stanton Seckinger being as athletic as Ford, so many fans assume that the coaches will turn to redshirt freshman Jay Jay McCollough. The problem with that is, of course, McCollough has 0 snaps of experience.
Many feel the defense will get better with addition by subtraction, getting better simply because many players perceived as unproductive will be moving on. The Tigers lose only Mallaciah Goodman along the line and players like Grady Jarrett, DeShawn Williams and Vic Beasley gained valuable experience this season.
At linebacker Clemson loses the sparingly used (in 2012) Corico Hawkins and the productive Tig Willard. That’s 53.6% of the Tigers career linebacker snaps between those two.
The defensive backfield has been an enigma all season long. The Tigers lose 6,689 snaps of experience, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone despondent over the individual losses as the DBs were the focus of busted coverages, long plays, poor angles, bad tackling and general failure of the defense.
Just know this – whatever group takes the field in the Clemson defensive backfield in 2012 is going to be thousands of snaps less experienced than those that took the field this past fall. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.
Chandler Catanzaro has me feeling good about the place kicking duties, but there will be zero experience behind him.
Bradley Pinion punted only 9 times in 2012 and was inconsistent in that role much as he was on kickoffs – both areas that need improvement in 2013.
The numbers in the defensive backfield juxtaposed against their 2012 performance shows that evaluating returning starters can be overvalued in some instances.
On the other hand, a similar argument can be made against trumpeting “4 of 5 starters returning on the OL” when the one starter you lose has more snaps than any offensive lineman in school history, accounts for almost 40% of the line’s total experience and makes the offensive protection calls.
These numbers don’t include the inevitable attrition that happens every year during the offseason. Guys transfer, give up football, face academic or life problems and sometimes get injured (Tony McNeal anyone?).
As with almost every analysis we do here, this should be used as one part of evaluating Clemson’s 2013 returnees with the main point being you can’t just look at numbers (i.e. “4 of 5 offensive linemen returning” or “only lose Jaron Brown and Nuk Hopkins from the WR corps”) and get a full picture of the returning (and departing) talent.