October 17, 2018

Defensive Tackles and Assists Ratios

Below are the ratios of tackles and assists for the returning defensive players. I’m not sure there’s a lot of value in this data at this point, but thought I would share. It’s difficult to compare numbers because the many of the players that will see significant action in 2012 have 0 to little past experience. I’m hopeful that seeing this data in season, as the season develops, will be useful.

Defensive Tackles and Assists Ratios

In general, the lower the number the better and this is where a couple of surprises come in, namely the two numbers below 9 snaps per tackle owned by Corico Hawkins and Spencer Shuey.

Hawkins is criticized constantly by Tiger fans, but his averages are better than Jonathan Willard’s. Also, let’s not forget Tony Steward is looming, assuming recovery from knee injuries is complete.

Shuey is listed as a back up in the middle and it’ll be interesting to see how many snaps he sees with the emergence of Stephone Anthony.

Analyzing Clemson’s 2012 Linebacker Experience

Linebacker is a position where the Tigers return all experience of note, losing only career third teamer Daniel Andrews, former walk-on Steve Demaras and Colton Walls before he played a down.

Consistency and tackling have been the bugaboos for this group prior to 2011, but with the infusion of Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward the trend is pointing upward.

Linebacker Experience

While Steward is recovering from injury and mired on the depth chart, Anthony came out of the spring as the starter in the middle.

Quandon Christian, Corico Hawkins and Tig Willard are all experienced linebackers and true freshman Travis Blanks is currently listed with this group as the Nickel Back.

Barring injuries the success or failure of this group won’t be based on experience as 3 at these positions have 827 snaps or more. Anthony’s 292 snaps equate to about 4 games, but he appeared solid, grounded and has star potential.

One of the more interesting story lines of the season will be how this group plays and performs with the change from Kevin Steele to Brent Venables.

Defensive Stats, Red Zone Comparison and Starting in Opponent’s Territory

Defensive Stats

I’ve spent somewhere around 98% of my time here talking about offense, which is quite different from previous years in this blog. At some point over the last year or so I began to realize that, in general, offense was over taking defense as the way most teams win.

Prior to last year the BCS Champion had been ranked in the top 10 in total defense for 10 straight years. Last year was the game changer for me as neither Auburn nor Oregon sniffed the top 10 in defense.

Andre Branch

That said, you obviously need a competitive defense to win (see East Carolina) and that’s what Clemson has this year. Is it outstanding? Nope. Is it good? Arguable. Is it competitive? You bet.

The stats below are not meant to be a be all and end all for defensive stats, but more of a starting point. There is much more that goes into playing defense than tackles, but the stats do give you at least one gauge of how the players at the same position are performing relative to their snaps played and that’s all it’s intended to do.

A good example of this is at the middle linebacker position where, prior to his sprained ankle, Stephone Anthony has been seeing more and more playing time. One look at these statistics provides at least one reason why. Anthony is making tackles and assists at a much higher rate than Corico Hawkins. For example, Hawkins is averaging a tackle every 17.1 snaps, while Anthony is averaging a tackle every 7.6 snaps.

Again, this is just one measure of a player’s performance, but it is one we can measure from available information without the inherent biases and short term memories of most fans.

Pos/Player Snaps Hits Snaps/Hit Assist Snaps/Assist Total Snaps/Tackle
Def End              
Goodman 308 15 20.5 9 34.2 24 12.8
K. Brown 91 9 10.1 0 0.0 9 10.1
Nose Tackle              
Thompson 306 18 17.0 16 19.1 34 9.0
Shatley 138 3 46.0 12 11.5 15 9.2
Def Tackle              
Moore 288 19 15.2 8 36.0 27 10.7
D. Williams 32 2 16.0 4 8.0 6 5.3
Bandit End              
Branch 307 33 9.3 7 43.9 40 7.7
Crawford 90 5 18.0 5 18.0 10 9.0
Sam LB              
Christian 172 16 10.8 4 43.0 20 8.6
Andrews 13 0 0.0 2 6.5 2 6.5
Mike LB              
Hawkins 308 18 17.1 8 38.5 26 11.8
Anthony 68 9 7.6 3 22.7 12 5.7
Will LB              
Willard 247 26 9.5 13 19.0 39 6.3
Steward 36 3 12.0 2 18.0 5 7.2
Sensabaugh 389 20 19.5 3 129.7 23 16.9
Breelnad 146 10 14.6 3 48.7 13 11.2
Free Safety              
Meeks 366 25 14.6 8 45.8 33 11.1
Smith 41 3 13.7 1 41.0 4 10.3
Strong Safety              
Hall 270 17 15.9 14 19.3 31 8.7
Lewis 73 2 36.5 2 36.5 4 18.3
Brewer 313 16 19.6 4 78.3 20 15.7
Robinson 213 8 26.6 2 106.5 10 21.3


Red Zone Comparison

I’ve been harping on the Tigers red zone woes for weeks now and someone has finally asked Chad Morris about it. Morris pretty much said what I’ve said: Clemson needs to score more touchdowns in the red zone.

I’ll go one step further though and say Clemson needs to get into the red zone more often. Top teams average getting into the red zone around 5.25 times per game. Clemson averages 3.83 red zone trips per game.

Below you’ll find a comparison of Oklahoma State, the nation’s top scoring team, and Clemson the 31st ranked scoring team.

The Cowboys average only 1.6 more possessions per game than Clemson, but the huge difference is that over 48% of Oklahoma State’s possessions reach the opponents red zone while only 29% of the Tigers possessions reach the opponents red zone.

Part of that difference can be attributed to the Tigers big play touchdowns, but the Cowboys have had some of those, too. Part of it is that the Tigers offense has been feast or famine while the Cowboys have taken the slower and steadier approach. Neither is right or wrong, you score any way you can, as quickly as you can, as often as you can.

Even once in the red zone the Tigers are scoring touchdowns at a far lower rate than Oklahoma State. One issue the Tigers have had is running the ball in that area and the 44 Clemson rushes in the red zone have netted only 77 yards or 1.75 per carry. Again, part of the reason for the low rushing average is that the gains, are by definition, limited. No matter how open a play from the opponent’s one yard line is, you can only gain 1 yard. But still, the Tigers have not been successful running the ball in this area despite consistent attempts to do so.

The Tigers appear to go conservative once inside the opponents 20. In the red zone the Tigers have run the ball 64% of the time, a much higher percentage than on the rest of the field.

In addition, Tajh Boyd has completed only 54% of his passes in the red zone, also a noticeably lower rate than in other areas of the field.

Obviously, there is less field to cover in the red zone which makes it easier to defend, either on a run or a pass. However, the difference between a good offensive team and a great offensive team is getting into the red zone and scoring touchdowns once there. 

RZ Poss
% RZ Poss
RZ Poss/G
Okla. State


Starting in Opponents Territory

As part of a larger project on expected points, I noticed a disturbing trend – the Tigers haven’t done very well when starting in the opponent’s territory.  The Tigers have had 13 such drives in the first 6 games of 2011 and have scored only 4 touchdowns and kicked 3 field goals.  Six of 13 possessions that have begun in the opponent’s territory have yielded 0 points.  Clemson is averaging 2.85 points on drives that have begun in their opponent’s territory. 

To be fair, I don’t know what this means as it relates to other teams as I haven’t done that comparison.  What I do know is that Clemson averages 2.62 points per drive they start in their own territory, so 2.85 seems awfully low in comparison. 

Clemson has 0 points from drives that started at the opponent’s 46, 33, 31, 28, 20 and 17.  You could argue that on 3, or maybe 4, of those drives they didn’t even need a first down to be in field goal position, yet they didn’t score a single point.  Stats like this are the difference between being the 31st ranked scoring team and a top 10 scoring team and perhaps, at some point, the difference between a win and loss.

Position Outlook: Clemson Linebackers

If ever a team met the challenge of filling a position of need on signing day of 2011 it had to be Clemson at linebacker.  The Tigers reeled in 5, but more importantly inked the #1 national prospect in Tony Steward, fellow 5 star Stephone Anthony and 4 star prospect Lateek Townsend.
The Tigers might need all 3 right away at a position that has tormented fans (and Kevin Steele) for years, but none enrolled early and will have to play catch up in the fall.
The post-spring depth chart lists Quandon Christian as the starter at strong side linebacker, backed up by Justin Parker and then Daniel Andrews.  There’s nothing spectacular here, though I like what I’ve seen of Christian and he could develop nicely.  The question is, is his upside limited?  Parker is largely a mystery because of a lack of playing time and Andrews is oft injured and has done little other than special teams.  Look for a shakeup here as the incoming class arrives and begins to make their presence felt.
All three of the highly touted incoming backers are listed as outside backers by Rivals.com, so perhaps Corico Hawkins is safe in the middle with the departure of Brandon Maye.  Depth is an issue here, too as I’m not sure that Spencer Shuey is going to be an adequate backup to Hawkins long-term. 
On the weak side, Tig Willard is listed as the starter over redshirt freshman Vic Beasley.  Willard looked noticeably bigger during the spring game and there is some reason for optimism.  Fans hoped Beasley would play last year, but it didn’t happen (a good thing) and he could also develop into a nice player.
Townsend was listed at 6’2 and 197 lbs. and needs time for his body to develop and mature and appears to be a strong candidate for a redshirt and a year in the weight room.
Steward and Anthony will play in 2011.  The question is where and how much.  Honestly I have no idea, but expect the depth chart at this position to look vastly different in August/September.

Seldom Used Six Pack – Brandon Rink

If you’re a sports fan and in particular an ACC fan, you need to know and follow Brandon Rink (@accblogger on Twitter).  What started several years ago as a class project has blossomed into a media conglomerate in the making.  Brandon covers Clemson for OrangeandWhite.com (see Brandon’s ACC spring football wrap at http://www.orangeandwhite.com/news/blogs/clemson-sports/brandon/).  At the same time Brandon is the editor of ACCBlogger.com and does freelance work for the Raycom ACC Blog and Southern Pigskin. 

We’re trying our best to get him to do a few articles for SeldomUsedReserve.com so if you enjoy his writing either here or at one of the places above encourage Brandon to make time for us in his schedule.  
1.  What were your overall impressions from the Clemson spring game and the Chad Morris “smash mouth spread” in particular?
They have a long way to go. Morris said that he had installed around 60 percent of the offense – about 15 to 20 percent less than he had said he wanted to back in January/February.  Therefore, it’s kind of hard to judge it overall, but there were glimpses of what it can do.
At one point, Cole Stoudt made a long completion to Jaron Brown – the Tigers rushed down the field and snapped it quick for a long D.J. Howard run – and just like that, they’re at the goal line and punching it in. Three plays, 15-seconds off the clock.
That’s the essence of the offense right there – quick strikes, and we also saw the smash mouth element too with two 100-yard rushers and a third at 97 on the day.   It’s definitely a work in progress, but I think it will have its highs and lows in year one.
2.   Give me your thoughts on Tajh Boyd, Cole Stoudt and Tony McNeal?
I believe your Clemson fan expectations had them at Cam Newton-lite (Tajh Boyd), NFL dad protégé (Cole Stoudt) and the next Woody Dantzler (Tony McNeal) – and I don’t disagree with the arguments against such notions.  When it comes to pace of the offense, I liked Tony McNeal’s feel for it.  When it comes to pure arm, Cole Stoudt could really develop a cannon because he had some throws that were on the money deep.
But the $64,000 question is…what about Tajh Boyd this year?  He’s saying the right things, and Boyd is obviously a leader on the field (maybe more than Clemson has seen recently). But like any young QB in a different system, he’ll struggle – make a good play here and there, but this won’t be a storybook season for him.  That said, he has the potential and work ethic to do well in Morris’ system beyond this season.
3.  The big question on the offensive line is former walk on tight end Phillip Price listed at first on the depth chart at left tackle.  What does that say about the offensive line in general and that position in particular?
Offensive line hasn’t been listed as a strength for Clemson in a good while – this season probably won’t be the exception. Price at left tackle is interesting – sophomore Brandon Thomas is right there behind him too if he struggles. Honestly, it’s hard to analyze the strength of the o-line out of the spring because of split squads in the Orange and White game, but it’s a definite question mark. 
4.  On the defensive side of the ball what are the biggest areas of concern?
Finding the right mix at linebacker. How many of these top-flight freshman LBs can make an impact right away? What veterans (Corico Hawkins, etc.) get their playing time reduced? I like where Clemson’s secondary and d-line are even with the losses of Da’Quan Bowers, Jarvis Jenkins and DeAndre McDaniel. It’s all on the linebackers and Steele will have his hands full putting it all together. 
5. The kicking in the spring game was erratic even without the enigmatic Richard Jackson. Who is going to be the place kicker for Clemson when it’s all said and done and how many games will kicking cost Clemson in 2011?
Oh, Clemson kicking.  To the first question, it’s going to be Chandler Catanzaro – Swinney loves the kid and apparently he’s a heck of a practice kicker.                                                             
To the second question, I’d put the over/under at two. Last year was kind of fluky in where it seemed like every game outside of the South Carolina blowout and cupcake games rode on the leg of Tigers’ kicker either just doing enough or blowing it. Unfortunately for Clemson, I’m not seeing any spectacular turnaround for Tigers’ FG-kicking woes. 
6. Give us your thoughts on Clemson’s final 2011 record and give us your ACC Divisional and Championship winners
Looking at the schedule, the four-home game start has its advantages and disadvantages – first two games with Troy and Wofford offer games to get the kinks out. The defending National Champs (Auburn) and Atlantic Division Champs (FSU) come next – ideally, Clemson would like a 4-0 start if they’re going to contend in the Atlantic. One, because you always want to start 4-0, but more importantly, getting the head-to-head edge on the Atlantic’s best team.
Go 2-2 and the season’s heading south fast with a trip to Virginia Tech the next week – I’m saying 3-1. After that trip to Blacksburg, 3-2.   From there, they are home with BC, UNC and Wake Forest – on the road at Maryland, Georgia Tech, NC State and South Carolina.
I’m saying a max of 8-4 – minimum of 6-6, but right now, going with 7-5 and a middle of the pack finish in the Atlantic. There will be enough glimpses of hope to keep Swinney around for a make it or get fired 2012 season.
Picking the divisions – FSU in the Atlantic and Virginia Tech in the Coastal (again)…looks like both squads are in good hands replacing their QBs. Toss a coin from there, but I wouldn’t bet against Fisher and the ‘Noles again in Charlotte.