October 23, 2014

Thoughts from the Spring Game

Courtesy OrangeandWhite.com

There’s nothing new or earth shattering here, you’ve probably read similar reviews by now, but that won’t stop me from adding my two cents.  Yeah, it was the spring game and the team was split, but that doesn’t mean observations can’t be made.

Courtesty OrangeandWhite.com

  • Tajh Boyd was unimpressive and inconsistent.  As Tajh goes so goes the Clemson offense.  Boyd made huge strides last year and needs to keep that momentum going in 2012.  He’s a junior on paper, but somewhere in the back of my mind “sophomore slump” (it is his second year as a starter) lurks.
  • Mike Bellamy had his moments, but once again fumbled.  Still there’s no denying the talent and home run ability Bellamy provides.  I love D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks is going to be a player, but the Tigers need Bellamy to contribute.  I was criticized for saying the same thing last year, but to me it’s painfully obvious.  Oh, by the way, Bellamy averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the day.
  • Brandon Ford is no Dewayne Allen, but he’ll be just fine and perhaps an All ACC Candidate.
  • Is there a better group of WRs in the nation?  Amazing how Jeff Scott has gone from an idiot to a savant in two short years.  One word:  Talent.  I’ll be interested to see the position rankings when the preseason mags hit the street.  If the Clemson WRs aren’t in the top 3 in the nation, it’s a sham.
  • The OL is a work in progress as it seems it is every year.  The difference is the young guys have talent.  It may take some time to grow them, but there is hope.  Injuries along the OL are always a concern and they happen every year, so developing backups is imperative.  The backups from last year saw precious little playing time and Clemson will pay for that early.
  • The DL acquitted themselves fairly well, but…they were going against an average OL that was split between teams.  Still concerned here, especially with depth.
  • The linebackers looked much improved.  Whether it’s Venables, his simplified scheme or simply maturity (or a combination) it was nice to see the LBs factor into many plays.
  • The DBs had to play against the best receivers they will see all year and that led to some tough results.  Travis Blanks has a future ahead of him, if for no other reason than he tackled well, something that has been missing over recent years for Clemson.
  • Speaking of tackling, the defense as a whole did a much better job in wrapping up and form tackling.  The Venables effect?  Who knows what will happen in truly live situations, but it was encouraging.
  • Bradley Pinion was as advertised.  Let’s hope it continues when the lights are shining bright.
  • Chandler Catanzaro has had a great spring by all accounts and I don’t really fault him for missing two 50 yarders at the end of the game before winning it with a 45 yarder.  However, it leaves a lingering concern about what tends to happen in the clutch.

Tiger First Half Tendencies on 1st & 10 in Own Territorry

Today we take a look at Clemson play selection on first and 10 from their 20 to their 49 in the first half of games this year.  Some results are expected, some interesting and some are head scratchers, at least for me.

Nothing unusual in our first group.  The Tigers run the ball two thirds of the time on first down between their 20 and 29 in the first half of games.

Quarter Field Position Down & Distance Run % Pass %
1 CU 20-29 1st & 10 62.50 37.50
2 CU 20-29 1st & 10 68.75 31.25
TOTAL CU 20-29 1st & 10 65.63 34.37

 

In the group below, what we see is that when the Tigers have a first down between their 30 and 39 the offense becomes much more pass oriented, especially in the second quarter.

Quarter Field Position Down & Distance Run % Pass %
1 CU 30-39 1st & 10 43.75 56.25
2 CU 30-39 1st & 10 23.08 76.92
TOTAL CU 30-39 1st & 10 34.48 65.52

 

Then, interestingly enough, once to the 40 the Tigers revert  back to the run on first down.


Quarter Field Position Down & Distance Run % Pass %
1 CU 40-49 1st & 10 72.22 27.78
2 CU 40-49 1st & 10 52.63 47.37
TOTAL CU 40-49 1st & 10 62.16 37.84

 

A quick summary goes something like this:  Look for the Tigers to run on first down when between their 20-29, pass between the 30-39 and go back to the run between the 40-49.

 

Next, we break down who gets the ball when in the situations listed above.  I included Ellington, Bellamy and Howard together because they are rarely in the game together.  It’s pretty clear what position gets the ball in the first scenario and that makes sense with the Tigers one back set.


Rusher Field Position % of Runs % of Plays
Ellington/Howard/Bellamy CU 20-29 76.19 50.00
Boyd CU 20-29 14.29 9.38
Watkins CU 20-29 9.52 6.25
TOTAL CU 20-29 100.00 65.63

 

The numbers below are interesting to me.  The Tigers rely more heavily on Hopkins than Watkins between the 20-29.

Receiver Field Position % of Passes % of Plays
Allen CU 20-29 9.09 3.13
Bryant CU 20-29 9.09 3.13
Ellington CU 20-29 9.09 3.13
Hopkins CU 20-29 36.36 12.50
Brown, J. CU 20-29 9.09 3.13
Watkins CU 20-29 27.27 9.38
TOTAL CU 20-29 100.00 34.37

 

Now that they’re at the 30, the running gets a bit more spread out with Boyd and Watkins percentages increasing.

Rusher Field Position % of Runs % of Plays
Ellington CU 30-39 50.00 17.24
Boyd CU 30-39 30.00 10.34
Watkins CU 30-39 20.00 6.90
TOTAL CU 30-39 100.00 34.48

 

Watkins and Hopkins share the ball in the 30s and Dewayne Allen and Andre Ellington become factors.

Receiver Field Position % of Passes % of Plays
Allen CU 30-39 15.79 10.34
Bryant CU 30-39 5.26 3.45
Ellington CU 30-39 15.79 10.34
Ford CU 30-39 5.26 3.45
Hopkins CU 30-39 26.32 17.24
Humphries CU 30-39 5.26 3.45
Watkins CU 30-39 26.32 17.24
TOTAL CU 30-39 100.00 65.52

 

As the Tigers move into the 40s Boyd’s carries decrease, the running backs load increases and Watkins stays about the same.  The interesting thing here is that Humphries and Watkins together means that wide receivers get 21.73% of the rushing attempts on first down between the 40 and 49.

Rusher Field Position % of Runs % of Plays
Ellington/Howard/Bellamy CU 40-49 69.57 43.24
Boyd CU 40-49 8.70 5.41
Humphries CU 40-49 4.34 2.70
Watkins CU 40-49 17.39 10.81
TOTAL CU 40-49 100.00 62.16

 

Obviously, Watkins numbers stand out below, but what jumped out to me is who is not here – Dwayne Allen.  Not one ball thrown his way on first and 10 between the 40-49 in the first half of any game.

Receiver Field Position % of Passes % of Plays
Bryant CU 40-49 7.14 2.70
Hopkins CU 40-49 14.29 5.40
J. Brown CU 40-49 7.14 2.70
None CU 40-49 7.14 2.70
Peake CU 40-49 7.14 2.70
Watkins CU 40-49 57.14 21.62
TOTAL CU 40-49 100.00 37.84

Successful vs. Non-Successful Plays Part III: Receiving

We continue our series on “Successful” plays. You can find Part I and Part II in previous posts and Part I includes the definition of a successful play, which I originally found on Smart Football.

There aren’t that many surprises in the numbers below.  Jaron Brown leads the pack in this category, too, at least of the receivers that play regularly.  Adam Humphries played intermittently, but his numbers are surprisingly high considering his tiny per catch average.

Two other things of note:

  1. I’m not saying Brandon Ford is a Dwayne Allen clone, but I am saying he has shown that he is more than a typical, big, lumbering tight end, but more of a hybrid TE/WR – a tight end with wide receiver skills (much like Allen) and if Allen leaves early for the NFL, as many suspect, all is not lost at the tight end position.
  2. One thing missing from the Morris offense is the running back as a receiving threat.  Think C.J. Spiller on the wheel route.  Perhaps it’s the skill set of the running backs currently on the roster, but these numbers seem ridiculously low.  Combining Ellington, Bellamy, Howard and McDowell you come up with 8 successful plays out of 48 times targeted – 16.67%.
Name Targeted Successful % Successful
Allen 85 43 50.59
Bellamy 6 1 16.67
Boyd 1 0 0.00
Brown, J. 44 27 61.36
Bryant 14 6 42.86
Cooper 3 1 33.33
Craig 3 2 66.67
Diehl 1 0 0.00
Ellington 35 7 20.00
Ford 19 11 57.89
Hopkins 97 57 58.76
Howard 4 0 0.00
Humphries 16 13 81.25
Jones, M. 3 0 0.00
McDowell 3 0 0.00
McNeal 1 1 100.00
Peake 8 4 50.00
Thomas, B. 1 0 0.00
Watkins 114 67 58.77
None 10 0 0.00
Interceptions 10 0 0.00
Totals  478 240 50.21

 

The numbers above look at successful plays as a percentage of times targeted.  Below we look at a select group of receivers and how successful they are once the ball is caught.  Again, it’s no surprise that Jaron Brown leads this group.  The surprise to me was DeAndre Hopkins coming in at 92%.  This reinforces that Hopkins is the safety net and “possession” receiver while Sammy Watkins is not only the home run threat, but also the guy they tend to throw the ball to at or near the line of scrimmage and let him use his athleticism.

Name Receptions Successful % Successful
Allen 48 43 89.58
Brown, J. 29 27 93.10
Hopkins 62 57 91.94
Watkins 77 67 87.01

Successful vs. Non-Successful Plays Part II – Rushing

I have to admit that the numbers below surprised me a bit. I figured that Mike Bellamy had a fairly high percentage of successful plays, but didn’t realize that D.J. Howard would be at the top of the running back list or that Sammy Watkins would exceed the 70% clip for successful plays.

Some of this can be attributed to the game situations, Bellamy and Howard tended to get snaps when the game was out of reach, but still it can be instructive in showing their potential. We also shouldn’t forget that Andre Ellington played parts of several games injured, reducing his cutting ability and burst.

Name Successful % Successful Non-Successful % Non-Successful N/A N/A%
Bellamy 30 52.63 27 47.37 0 0.00
Benton 0 0.00 1 100.00 0 0.00
Boyd 53 50.96 43 41.35 8 7.69
Diehl 0 0.00 1 100.00 0 0.00
Ellington 104 48.83 104 48.83 5 2.34
Howard 25 62.50 14 35.00 1 2.50
Humphries 2 100.00 0 0.00 0 0.00
McDowell 4 40.00 6 60.00 0 0.00
Peake 0 0.00 1 100.00 0 0.00
Stoudt 1 50.00 1 50.00 0 0.00
Team 0 0.00 11 100.00 0 0.00
Watkins 22 70.97 9 29.03 0 0.00


Finally, a note on Tajh Boyd’s performance: Boyd’s official rushing stats are rendered meaningless by sacks (not included in this analysis), but these numbers show that of the 96 carries that Boyd had that can be classified as successful or non-successful over 55% of them were successful, gaining a first down, touchdown or putting the Tigers in a position to gain a first down or touchdown. Not outstanding, but certainly solid and an important part of the Clemson offense.

Sunday Morning Leftovers #11

Thoughts, ruminations, reflections and laments from watching Clemson implode in Raleigh.

  • One of the ugliest Clemson losses I can remember.
  • I have never been more correct than when I texted a friend when it was 3-0 Clemson.  “They look like they don’t give a —-.”
  • Tajh Boyd is now playing like I thought he would play all year.
  • I’ve defended Mike Bellamy, but…
  • The defense played pretty well for a quarter and then looked like they gave up.
  • The injuries on the offensive line continue to mount and the depth is zero.
  • Tough stretch for a banged up team (emotionally and physically) with South Carolina and probably Virginia Tech in the next two weeks.

Dissecting Clemson in the Red Zone

Tajh Boyd (orangeandwhite.com)

I’ve harped quite a bit on the Tigers red zone performance this year, namely not getting in the red zone enough to become an elite (as in top 5 or 6) scoring offense.

But that’s not the only issue the Tigers have.  Before last Saturday the Tigers were scoring touchdowns at just over 60% of the time on their red zone possessions.

Against Wake Forest the Tigers scored touchdowns on their first four trips into the red zone, including two short runs by Andre Elllington.  With the game on the line Clemson  drove the into the red zone again and failed to convert on a third and 5 when Tajh Boyd came up inches short and the drive ended with a missed field goal.

The chart below tends to indicate that the Tigers red zone issues are not related to the passing game. Boyd is completing passes in the red zone at almost the same rate as anywhere else on the field and only 1 of Boyd’s 7 interceptions have happened when the play began in the opponent’s red zone, which correlates to an impressive 15 to 1 TD to interception ratio in the red zone.

Tajh Boyd Red Zone Statistics 2011

Comp
Att
Yards
Pct
TD
Int
23
38
202
60.53
15
1

The culprit appears to be the running game, which is averaging a paltry 2.1 yards per carry on 71 red zone carries. In fact, the best rushing average for Clemson in the red zone (for players with more than 1 attempt) belongs to none other than Tajh Boyd who has gained 56 yards on 18 carries (3.1).

Here are some of the other rushing averages for Tigers in the red zone:

  1. Andre Ellington -> 2.3
  2. D.J. Howard -> 2.2
  3. Sammy Watkins -> 1.3
  4. Mike Bellamy -> -1.5

Yards per carry in the red zone tend to be lower because obviously you can only gain a max of 20 yards on a given carry, but of the Tigers 71 red zone rushing attempts 33 have come from 10 yards or more away from the goal line, providing ample opportunity for a decent yard per carry average.

 

Podcast Episode 15: Cardiac Clemson Prevails Somehow

Clemson needed a last second field goal to edge Wake Forest 31-28 on Saturday and clinch the Atlantic Division of the ACC. Hear about the good, the bad and the ugly by downloading the Seldom Used Reserve Podcast.

 

You can download Episode 15 directly here and find our Podcast Archive here. Please direct questions, comments or show suggestions to seldomusedreserve@gmail.com.

NOTE: We are taking the week off with the Tigers. We’ll post our picks on Thursday and be back to our regular schedule next week.

Why Clemson Shouldn’t Give Up on Mike Bellamy

20111104141014

As I watched Dabo Swinney put his arm around Mike Bellamy after the freshman’s fumble in the third quarter of the Georgia Tech game my initial thought was that Bellamy had blown his chance and would find a home on the bench aside from garbage time for the rest of the year.

One of my “Sunday Morning Leftovers” was “More D.J. Howard and less Mike Bellamy”, as I was thinking through what led to the loss.

That was an over reaction to a fumble when the Tigers were already down 21.

As my focus turned to what the Tigers need to do to win the ACC and make a BCS Bowl for the first time ever, it became clear to me that what they need is a healthy Andre Ellington. Or at least as healthy as Ellington can be.

Before the season I questioned Ellington’s ability to carry the ball 20-22 times a game and that has proven to be true. It appears Andre can do that for a game or two, but not as a rule, without getting nicked or more seriously injured causing him to miss carries and even games.

While I love D.J. Howard’s potential, it became clear to me that Howard doesn’t have the burst, speed and cutting ability of Ellington or Bellamy. There is no home run threat with Howard as there is with the other two.

Part of this process is not only remembering the 3 Bellamy fumbles, but remembering the Virginia Tech touchdown (23 yards), the 12 yard run against Auburn, the 15 yarder against Boston College, and the 13, 14 and 18 yard runs before the fumble at Georgia Tech (which by the way occurred at the end of a 12 yard run).

That led me to compare Ellington and Bellamy across categories that I find important: Yards per carry, % of FDs, % of Touchdowns, and % of explosive plays. As you can see, Bellamy compares very favorably to Ellington in most categories.

I’m not suggesting Bellamy is better than Ellington or should be absolved of his fumbles. Another fumble might signal the end of his last chance, but I also understand that going forward Ellington can’t be expected to carry the ball 20-22 times a game and remain healthy and it’s clear from these numbers that Bellamy is the more explosive runner, whether it be because of injuries to Ellington or some other reason.  Howard and Bellamy need to shoulder part of the load. Dabo knows that and that’s why he put his arm around Bellamy in Atlanta and why Clemson needs Bellamy going forward in 2011 and beyond.

Third Down Targets

Sammy Watkins

In previous weeks we’ve chronicled Tajh Boyd’s third down passing.  In this post we take a look at who Boyd’s throwing to on third down and who’s catching it, scoring, getting first downs and making explosive plays.

We’ve also chronicled Jaron Brown’s play over the last couple of weeks, so that should be no big surprise. 
 
Watkins and Hopkins being targeted the most should also be a surprise to no one and the same goes for the explosiveness of Sammy Watkins compared to DeAndre Hopkins.  Clemson needs both, but they are different receivers, with different skill sets as these (and other) numbers illustrate.  24.4 yards per catch on third down is pretty good.  5 touchdowns on 16 catches is even better.
 
Name
Target
Rec
%
Yards
Avg
TD
TD%
FD
FD%
Exp
Exp%
Brown, J.
7
7
100.00
78
11.1
0
0.00
6
85.71
2
28.57
Peake
1
1
100.00
17
17.0
0
0.00
1
100.00
1
100.00
Watkins
16
12
75.00
293
24.4
5
31.25
11
68.75
6
37.50
Hopkins
16
12
75.00
157
13.1
0
0.00
11
68.75
3
18.75
Ellington
11
8
72.73
44
5.5
0
0.00
1
9.1
0
0.00
Allen
15
10
66.67
165
16.5
3
20.00
7
46.67
3
20.00
Bryant
1
0
0.00
0
0.0
0
0.00
0
0.00
0
0.00
Cooper
1
0
0.00
0
0.0
0
0.00
0
0.00
0
0.00
Bellamy
1
0
0.00
0
0.0
0
0.00
0
0.00
0
0.00
McDowell
1
0
0.00
0
0.0
0
0.00
0
0.00
0
0.00
Throw Away
3
0
0.00
0
0.0
0
0.00
0
0.00
0
0.00
Interception
1
0
0.00
0
0.0
0
0.00
0
0.00
0
0.00
Totals
74
50
67.57
754
15.1
8
10.81
37
50.00
15
20.27

Podcast Episode 13: Looking back at UNC, forward to Georgia Tech

How many times should a man admit he was wrong about Tajh Boyd? We attempt to answer that question and talk about Kourtnei Brown, Corey Crawford and the much maligned (rightfully so at times) Tiger defense among other topics in this episode.

 

You can download Episode 13 directly here and find our Podcast Archive here. Please direct questions, comments or show suggestions to seldomusedreserve@gmail.com.