December 13, 2018

Then versus Now: How the 2016 Tigers stack up against the 2013 Tigers


With Clemson’s Fiesta Bowl matchup versus Ohio State just days away we’ll take an in-depth look at how this year’s team compares to the 11-2 team from 2013, who capped their season with an Orange Bowl victory over Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes. This piece will provide a snapshot at both the similarities and differences between two of the best teams to ever play at Clemson.






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Episode 30: The Return of Deshaun Watson and Defending Georgia Tech

Brandon Rink of joins me to discuss Deshaun Watson’s return, the loss of Robert Smith and defending the Georgia Tech offense.

You can also download current and previous episodes and subscribe to the Podcast via iTunes by clicking here.

Thanks to Brandon for participating and Clemson graduate Adam Eargle for the podcast artwork and all SUR graphics.  Need a graphic artist? Check out some of Adam’s work here.


Defensive Drive Metrics – 8 Games

Some numbers for the defensive minded folks:

    • 49 three and outs (43% of drives)
    • 52 drives (45.6% of drives) of three or less plays (including turnovers on 1st play of two drives and second play of 1 drive)
    • Average drive against: 4.4 plays, 17.9 yards, 1:52 seconds, punt

*Drives that included only kneel down plays excluded from analysis

Defensive Drive Analysis 2014 8

3rd Down Stops

Perhaps one of the most over rated stats is tackles. Sure, it’s important to tackle the opponent when they have the ball, but many times defensive backs have a great number of tackles because they’re last in the line of defense. More important is who makes the tackles on third downs that stop the opponent from gaining a first down. Below are the numbers for the Georgia game.

These numbers will not equal the number of times Georgia failed on third down because (a) some passes were incomplete (no tackle) without a pass broken up and (b) a myriad of other reasons (runs out of bounds, falls down, etc).

The intent is to show who makes the tackles that stop drives.

3rd Down Stops

2013 Defensive 3rd Downs

Below are the metrics for third downs for the Tiger defense in 2013. While the overall numbers are good – 30.8% – it’s interesting to note the anomalies in the data such as 3rd and 4 (small sample size), 3rd and 6 and to a lesser extent 3rd and 8.

These numbers include goal to go situations so that made a difference on 3rd and 4, where opponents were 3 for 3 on goal to go situations, but only 2 for 5 otherwise.

Overall opponents were 4 for 8 on third and goal situations against Clemson in 2013.

2013 Defensive 3rd Down Conversions Graph2013 Defensive 3rd Downs Chart

Here’s a look at the tackles made on third downs and those (“Stopped” column) that resulted in the opponent being stopped on third down. In short, every tackle (8 of which were sacks) Vic Beasley was a part of on third down meant a 4th down followed.

The difference in third down production between Beasley and Corey Crawford is notable.

Finally, the chart also shows that replacing Spencer Shuey may be easier said than done. Shuey had more primary stops on third down than any other Tiger and perhaps this means Shuey was attacked more on 3rd down, but nonetheless he forced just one less 4th down than Stephone Anthony did with the same number of overall opportunities.

3rd Down Stops 2013

Defensive Backs

As with the linebackers, these numbers are slightly sketchy because of the inclusion of special teams tackles in the numbers.

Garry Peters is an interesting case to me. It seems to me Peters got a ton of credit for a couple of plays and was given somewhat of a pass (pun not intended) when out of position or just flat beat on plays.

Peters leads the returners in passes broken up, but my sense is that is because he was picked on as the weak link a fair amount and had more “opportunities” to break up passes.

It appears to be all or nothing with Peters. He did very well on some plays and on others he was out of position and burned.

Inexperience had something to do with that and the hope is with 500+ snaps and another year in the program under his belt those issues will be fixed.

I’m not totally comfortable with Robert Smith listed as the starter at one of the safety positions.

As a whole, this is a group that concerns me the most – especially against a Georgia team that averaged 10 yards per pass attempt in 2012.

2013 Returning Experience: Defensive Backs

The bad news is Clemson loses about 6,800 snaps in the defensive backfield. If you ask a lot of Tiger fans the good news is Clemson loses 6,800 snaps in the defensive backfield.

Gone are Rashard Hall, Xavier Brewer and Jonathan Meeks, who all individually or collectively were the focal points of the fans ire when long plays, bad angles and poor tackling plagued the secondary.

2012 Defensive Backs Experience Final

Not all is lost though as the Tigers return 4 players with between 366 and 700 career snaps.

The question is will it be a matter of addition by subtraction or will the defensive backfield suffer through another tough season.

Travis Blanks played about as well as you could expect a true freshman and has a bright future. The other three have all had ups and downs in their time at Clemson and questions remain about the skill level of this group.

Not listed above are redshirt Ronald Geohaghan and Hargrave Military placement Cordrea Tankersley.

This is a group that should be updated immediately assuming current commitments sign LOIs on National Signing Day (today).

Still, this is post is about returning experience and depending on true freshmen to play in the defensive backfield is a dicey proposition at best.

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.

Sunday Morning Leftovers #2

First off I wanted to mention that we will have our award-winning podcast later in the week instead of on Monday in order to give us more time to prepare and for the storylines to develop.  So instead of having it posted on Monday morning, it may be Wednesday.

Without further ado, here is my random stream of consciousness on the Wofford game and as you might have guessed, most of it is not good.

  • The Catman is back to his old tricks after one solid week.  Some will blame the snapper, some the holder, and some Catanzaro.  Whatever the cause, another makeable field goal was missed and the confidence in him is so low that apparently Swinney felt the need to run a fake later in the game when a chip shot would have made it a two score game. 
  • Two games, two failed PATs, a missed FG and an ill-timed, badly faked FG – ugly stuff.
  • Speaking of that fake field goal, if that was in fact a called fake it was perhaps the worst coaching call I can remember.  A field goal puts Clemson up two scores against a one-dimensional team in the fourth quarter.
  • It took Clemson till the third fourth and one attempt this year to hand the ball to their best running back.  Sometimes you can outsmart yourself.  I realize Ellington is not a power back, but he’s the best Clemson has and he needs the ball in his hands as often as possible.  I don’t question going for it on any of the three instances, I question who carried the ball in the first two.
  • What a strange substitution pattern (assuming no injury) when D.J. Howard carried the ball for the first time late in the game with the Tigers trying to run out the clock.  Why would you have the fourth running back (Ellington, McDowell and Bellamy all had carried the ball), one that hadn’t carried the ball all day and had only carried it a couple of times last week and in his college career, carry the ball in such a crucial situation?
  • After a not so great week 1 running the ball, I like the decisions Boyd made yesterday and the way he ran the ball.
  • Sammy Watkins is good.  

    Sammy Watkins vs. Wofford (AP)

  • More horrid tackling.  That will doom Clemson against Auburn if it isn’t fixed.
  • Clemson had two of the dumbest personal foul calls I’ve seen in a long time.
  • I like what Tyler Shatley has done during his playing time in games 1 and 2.
  • It should go without saying, but it’s nice to have more than one dependable wide receiver.
  • The offensive line has some work to do.  4 sacks given up to Wofford? Ouch.
  • Robert Smith was toasted early and some will say that was inexperience.  But isn’t that the type of thing you learn in youth football?

Sunday Morning Leftovers

As we called earlier in the week the Clemson/Troy game was closer than most expected and Clemson pulled away in the second half.  I have many conflicting thoughts about this game that will take some time to sort out, but suffice it to say that my twitter analogy that being a Clemson fan compares to being a day trader, though dated, once again proved correct. 

We’ll analyze the stats to death during the week, but here are my non-statisical (for the most part) random observations:

  • Tajh Boyd overcame a shaky first half to end up with a nice statistical night.  Still questions persist.  A fumble and interception are not things you want to see from a guy with a history (however short) of ball security problems.
  • I understand Chad Morris scripted the first 9 plays, but I am mystified why Ellington doesn’t get the ball more on first down.  Unofficially I counted 60 yards on 6 first down carries in the first half.
  • Still trying to figure out why Dwayne Allen doesn’t get the ball more.
  • Sammy Watkins = Good.  I don’t typically gush over true freshmen, especially against Sun Belt teams, but he caught everything thrown his way. 
  • Freshmen – In a word WOW.  Again, it was a Sun Belt level team, but Watkins, Bellamy and Bryant did their thing on offense while Stephone Anthony and Robert Smith did the same defensively.
  • The tackling was atrocious.
  • 0 for 8 on third downs in the first half.  Sigh.  Almost all of them were third and long.  Bigger sigh.
  • Calling a QB sneak on 4th and goal with a “lumbering” QB.
  • Tajh Boyd isn’t going to be G.J. Kinney running the ball in this offense.
  • Was I the only one who didn’t see the “hurry-up, no huddle” offense?  Perhaps they are saving that for Auburn. 
  • Chandler Catanzaro.  I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong.  Catman was nails (despite missing a PAT).  Can’t complain about three FGs of 45 or more yards.  Lets see it next week.  And the next.  And the next.  Catman has always been decent from 40+.  It’s the 30-39 you have to look out for.
  • Props to Troy.  I didn’t take them lightly as some did and they played hard and clean for 4 quarters. 

Be sure to check back on Monday as we’ll have our podcast on Wofford posted along with a recap of the Troy game.