October 21, 2014

Clemson Offensive Drive Trends

3rd_Down

Complete domination of the Wolfpack last Saturday leads to improved numbers below.

Of the 11 competitive drives against North Carolina State 3 were 11 plays and another 10 plays. Three drives were 4 minutes or longer and 1 was over 5 minutes.

*End of half drives with kneel down plays or plays that are not designed to score are excluded.Drives Breakdown 2014 5TOP Breakdown 2014 5

 

*End of half drives with kneel down plays or plays that are not designed to score are excluded.

Analyzing Clemson Offensive Drive Trends

Chad Morris

One of the hallmarks of the Chad Morris offense is the ability to score quickly.  Quickly as in the 2 play, 74 yard, 35 second “drive” to start the North Carolina game.

But with those quick scores, the offense also generates quick three and outs and a tiny number of long, sustained, time consuming drives.

In short, whether succeeding or failing this offense puts stress on the defense as I opined on Wednesday’s podcast with Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com.

This is born out in the numbers below: 53.5% of Clemson’s offensive drives* are 5 plays or less and 80.3% of the drives last less than 3 minutes.

1 drive has lasted longer than 5 minutes.

In particular, I believe the weak running game to date has exacerbated this situation along with facing Georgia and Florida State early in the season.

*End of half drives with kneel down plays or plays that are not designed to score are excluded.

Drives Breakdown 2014 4TOP Breakdown 2014 4

As the Tigers enter the heart of the ACC schedule it’ll be interesting to see how this trends.

This is not a criticism of the Morris offense.  You’re supposed to score as quickly and as often as you can in the vast majority of situations and for the most part Morris has succeeded.

We knew 4 years ago that the defense would suffer because of the offensive style and add to that the struggles in the running game and you have extremely quick drives and the defense getting back on the field.

Quick drives equals more drives per game for Clemson and Clemson’s opponents. More drives per game equals more points for both teams (in general).

As long as Clemson averages 2:11 per drive, whether successful or not, I wouldn’t expect the defense to hold many opponents to single digits or even under 20.

*End of half drives with kneel down plays or plays that are not designed to score are excluded.

Lack of Creativity in Short Yardage

Chad Morris

Editors Note: Thanks to Brandon Rink of orangeandwhite.com for reminding me that I had this data available and suggesting that I share it.

Chad Morris is known for his creativity. Over the last 43 games we’ve seen a myriad of funky formations (tackles split out?), inventive plays and idiosyncrasies from Clemson’s offensive coordinator. Morris has been unconventional, nonconforming and unapologetic as the yards and points accumulated. Pedal to the metal. “Foot on the gas”, as Morris says.

What Morris hasn’t been is creative on 3rd and 4th and very short.

Short Yardage 2014 3

In the Morris era the Tigers have run the ball 96.3% of the time on 3rd and 1 and 93.1% of the time on 4th and 1 (goal to go included in both). Everyone knows what’s coming, as did Florida State last Saturday in overtime. Adam Humphries crossing behind Deshaun Watson at the snap? Pfffft. No FSU defender paid attention, because it’s 4th and 1 and Clemson’s running up the middle.

I have no problem with the shotgun formation. You do what you do best and put your players in the best position to achieve success.

Running up the middle is not what Clemson does best.

Especially when everyone knows what’s coming.

The irony is is that in those 43 games and 110 opportunities Clemson has passed the ball 5 times and been successful each time.

2013 Offensive Explosives By Game

Morris

Clemson Football - Cole StoudtThe chart below shows Clemson’s explosive offensive plays for the 2013 season. This is something that I’ll track, compare and contrast to this season – the Tigers first in 3 years without Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.

2014 can be viewed as a referendum on the Morris offense and whether it’s “the system” or “the players”.

While Sammy Watkins doesn’t come along every day, I personally think there’s not much of an argument. It’s the system AND the players, the players AND the system. You wouldn’t see the numbers of the last 3 years in the Billy Napier offense even with Watkins, Boyd and Bryant and you wouldn’t have seen 6,000+ yards per season under Morris without Boyd, Watkins, Bryant and others.

2013 Explosives by Game

The numbers exclude 12 “Team Rushes” (aka “kneel down” plays) that were non-competitive.

The 2013 Georgia game is a great example of the importance of explosive plays.  The 9 explosive plays Clemson had that night accounted for 269 of the Tigers 467 total yards (53.3%).  The other 65 plays accounted for 218 total yards (3.4 yards per play).

Three Years of the Chad Morris Offense

Morris

You can find all 3,054 plays here for your own analysis, but here’s an overview of the last 3 years in charts and graphs.

Something you want to see not here? Pick up the internet and give me a call.

Play Selection 11213 Yards 11213 YPP 11213

Plays Per Game 11213Yards Per Game 11213Points Per Game 11213
Pass Distro 11213Tragets by Position 11213

3rd Down by Distance 11213 Chart

3rd Down by Distance 11213 Graph

2014 Forecast: Offense

Morris

MorrisLast year I underestimated the Clemson offense (or gave ACC defenses too much credit) and Chad Morris. I believed the loss of Nuk Hopkins and Andre Ellington would slow the Chad Morris juggernaut down. By and large I was wrong as the Tigers approached 508 yards per game.

Problem is, I feel the same way this year with the loss of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Perhaps it’s the eternal pessimist in me.

Over the last 3 seasons (40 games) Chad Morris’ offense has run 3,054 plays and racked up nearly 19,000 yards while Boyd set nearly every passing mark in school history.

2014 could be a bit different for Tiger fans and the Tigers on the field. Boyd, Watkins and Martavis Bryant are gone, being replaced by Cole Stoudt, Adam Humprhies and Mike Williams and at running back the Tigers are looking for a feature back from a group of 5 (or 7 if you count true freshmen).

A lot of yards and touchdowns are now in the NFL.

My working hypothesis is that the Tigers rely on the “smash mouth” portion of Morris’ Smash Mouth Spread slightly more this season after being fairly balanced in rushing the ball 53% of the time (including sacks) and throwing 47% of the time in Morris’ first 3 seasons.

More running means less plays, less yards and less yards per play.  I don’t expect a monumental shift, but rather a small, subtle one.

The second part of that hypothesis is that while the Tigers were able to withstand the loss of Hopkins and Ellington, the loss of Boyd and Watkins is greater.

There will also be a corresponding drop in explosive plays.  Replacing Rod McDowell, even if it’s by committee, is less difficult than replacing Watkins, Bryant and Boyd and it’s a leap to expect Stoudt and his receivers to obtain the same level of cohesiveness.

Of course, there’s a chance that Stoudt could replace Boyd almost seamlessly in the short to medium game and I’ve even forecast him to leave Clemson with the highest completion percentage in a year and for a career. The question is the long game which Boyd and Watkins (along with Martavis Bryant) were so good at.

Watkins turned 3 yard passes into 20 yard gains and 14 yard passes over the middle into 66 yard touchdowns. Bryant averaged 19.7 yards per catch. Replacing that explosiveness is going to be difficult, perhaps impossible. Sammy was drafted 4th overall for a reason.

The Tiger offense will be good, but I don’t expect it to be 507.7 yards per game good.

I hope I am wrong again.

Breakout season: 960 Plays (80 per game), 540 Points (45 per game), 6,120 TY (510.0 per game), Rushing 2,240 yards (187 per game), 26 TD; Passing 3,880 yards (323.0 per game), 37 TD.

Bust: 864 Plays (72 per game), 396 Points (33 per game), 5,000 TY (416.7 per game), Rushing 1,900 yards (158.3 per game), 20 TD; Passing 3,100 yards (258.2 per game), 28 TD.

2014 Outlook: 912 Plays (76 per game), 456 Points (38 per game), 5,542 TY (461.8 per game), Rushing 2,172 yards (181 per game), 24 TD; Passing 3,370 yards (280.8 per game), 33 TD.

New O&W Post: Put the Smash Back in the Smash Mouth Spread

CM

In Clemson’s season opening win over Georgia, Rod McDowell ran over, through and around Bulldog defenders on his way to 132 yards on 22 carries as the Tigers racked up 197 yards rushing.

Six games later that 197 yards is still the high for Clemson despite blowout wins over South Carolina State, Wake Forest and Syracuse and the Tigers have thrown more than the 30 passes they threw against Georgia in every game since.

Continue reading at orangeandwhite.com

Trouble on Second

CM

I might be the only one, but the numbers below are interesting to me. What is it about second down that has vexed Tajh Boyd in the first four games of 2013?

My initial thought was that perhaps after a loss on first down the Tigers were “behind the chains” and in an obvious passing situation and there looks to be some of that as second and 15, 18 and 22 are among the yards to go.

On the other hand, there are more second and 2, 3 and 4 than second and 15,18 and 22 so this doesn’t fully explain the dramatic difference between completion percentages on first and second down (or first and third for that matter).

Boyd By Down 5

Avg To Go

Even on third downs, with many obvious passing situations, Boyd completes 2 of 3 passes on average.

One thought is it could be the routes or plays called. For example, perhaps second down is the “take a shot” down. It would require some very detailed research to confirm or dispute this theory, but perhaps just eyeballing what happens Saturday will provide us some insight into the root cause.

If you think through it, it makes some sense:

  • First down is typically short or intermediate routes designed to be successful and gain positive yards with the occasional deep ball thrown in.
  •   Second down is the “take a shot down” after a gaining positive yards on first, with the occasional “behind the chains” type play.
  •   Third down is somewhere in between – getting enough to move the chains, so you are playing more to the exact distance to go than on the other downs.

It sounds logical (at least to me).  Now let’s see what happens in a few hours.

Offensive Efficiency Rankings – Week 4

CM

The numbers below only reinforce what we’ve all seen through the first 3 games – a good, but not elite offense. Being ranked 45th overall (out of 123 teams), tied for 14th in tempo and a disappointing 69th in efficiency makes it difficult to dispute the problems the offense has had.

I get into a little more detail about these issues in my orangeandwhite.com post later this afternoon, but the gist of the story is that the next three games will determine whether what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get or, as Tajh Boyd suggested, once rolling the offense will become a freight train.

Offensive Tempo and Efficiency Rankings

Random Numbers

The metric below is my attempt to measure offenses in a way other than total yards. It’s not a complicated formula and contains only two components that are weighted equally: Efficiency (measured in yards per play) and Tempo (measured by number of plays per game).

The totals are added together and divided by 2 to get the final score and ranking.

What it doesn’t include is strength of schedule, so one would expect the Baylor’s of the college football worlds should come back to earth at some point during the season.

Each of the components is adjusted so that the average is 100.00 in both categories. Anything above that is “above average” and anything below that is “below average”.

Another way to think about these numbers is to say that when the average team runs 100 plays Baylor runs 105.70 or when the average team gains 100 yards Baylor gains 164.25.

There are some interesting numbers contained below. I mean who knew that BYU has the highest adjusted tempo offense in college football? On the flip side of that is that because of their inefficient passing game, the Cougars are only 75th in efficiency.

The mirror opposite is LSU, which is ranked 111th in adjusted tempo and 9th in efficiency.

On to the Clemson-N.C. State matchup, it just so happens that these two teams are next to each other in the rankings, with Clemson at 32 and N.C. State at 33. Both play fast and both are mediocre at efficiency.

Many fans are probably surprised to find Clemson at number 65 in adjusted efficiency, but this has never been an area that the Tigers exceed at under Chad Morris. The Tigers get yards, because they push the number of plays to make up for the lack of efficiency.

The Clemson offense runs a large percentage of pass plays at or near the line of scrimmage and while this is generally successful in gaining yards, it’s not something that lends itself to medium to big gains that passes down the field would likely gain.