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Topic-icon Film Study: Clemson vs. Syracuse

t is what it is.his has been a common refrain from Dabo Swinney when addressing a variety of complex topics: NIL (something he addressed this week), culture change, etc. That particular saying has been stuck in my mind all season, because I think it the most succinct way to capture the feeling emanating from Clemson, SC. Individual fans might lay the blame heavily on their own personal bugaboo: playcalling, transfer portal, culture, etc. However, in reality, it all of these things. The fact is it a perfect confluence of Clemson flaws/issues that have led to a season that this mediocre relative to recent standards. It clear to me that Dabo is well aware of this. That why wee seen a more sarcastic/ironic Dabo than in past years, one who is more willing to deflect or jump around from subject to subject. He knows that he has failed Clemson football this season and that this offense is beyond repair.Whether or not you believe Coach Swinney act this season and are willing to give him a mulligan is up to each fan. I personally am willing to accept a season divergent from the est is the Standard credo, on the condition that we get back to the Best in the very near future. After all, there are recent championship contenders who are in a worse situation...OffenseThere really not a new development to discuss in great depth that emerged from the Syracuse game. Our running game looked slightly better I suppose, but I don know how much credit to dole out considering Florida State earned 250 rushing yards against the Cuse front 7 a week prior. In my opinion, the drive immediately following halftime is a microcosm of how the Clemson offense performed overall last Friday night: some bright spots that were swiftly blotted out by terrible individual mistakes , bad playcalling, inexperience at Center, and poor execution.Clemson started this drive positively with a well-executed (see we have the capability!) RPO to Ross that gained us an immediate 1st down. We then followed this by two well-blocked inside zone runs, where our line actually got PUSH on the opposing defensive line. Unfortunately, this promising start was tragically quashed during the next set of downs, for reasons all too familiar to the Clemson fanbase. Clemson decides to go pass early here (more on that later...) and Mason Trotter sails this way over DJ head. Looking back to pre-game murmurs, I was fearful of something like this happening when I heard Clemson would be without Hunter Rayburn. I didn do a write-up for the BC game, but I still rewatched it and I came away with the impression that Rayburn turned in a solid performance in Death Valley, one that I expected him to continue against Syracuse after two weeks of 1st team reps . Yet it seemed like the news of Rayburn missing out was a real shock to the staff and plays like this from Trotter are the result.Now, I don blame the staff so much for Trotter mistake here in and of itself. It does seem like they were forced into a late decision to roll with a guy who has a cast on his snapping hand because of Rayburn absence, and you simply cannot roll with Bockhorst at center. My issue is instead with playcalling. I understand that it can be unfair to retroactively criticize a playcall that was marred by something bizarre like a bad snap , but I think there a broader point to make here. We were running the ball well and getting a better push on the Syracuse line than we had any FBS opponent all season coming out of the half, we had the lead, and yet we decide to call a dropback pass out of shotgun on 1st 10? It all goes back to Elliott frustrating obsession with balance, instead of just taking account of what working and adjusting if and when the defense adjusts. This isn just me cherry-picking either, there were numerous examples of abandoning the run in the second half that I thought were confounding. If youe having to play a center with a broken snapping hand in his first start AND the running game is cooking, why not just spam the run? What even more frustrating is that there are ways to pass without getting a shotgun snap off and relying on a bad pass pro unit for protection. One of those plays is the PA aked rollout from under center that Clemson has already used numerous times this season. I not a huge fan of it personally, but that largely because wee primarily called it when our running game was floundering, and therefore outside LBs/DEs were more comfortable with reading the play. However, It would seem like an ideal time to call one when your run game is gashing the defense and the line has looked terrible in pass pro.After clawing back to 3rd 16 with a quick pass to Davis Allen, we were in a situation where we needed a big play. Ross runs a fade and DJ throws a ball that is right on Ross frame, while also being high enough that Ross can use his length to frame the pass away from the shorter CB covering him. Yet, Ross is unable to come down with it. At first, I was yelling for PI, but if you rewatch closely it clearly not. Even the sideline isn calling for it, and the Clemson coaches ALWAYS jump at the ref if there even a hint of PI.This brings up an issue about the WR corps that I think is less frequently discussed than other clear issues such as health and the lack of complementary pieces. Throughout the majority of the Dabo Swinney era, Clemson has relied upon at least one big-bodied, physical threat like Nuk Hopkins, Mike Williams, or Tee Higgins to win these 50-50 balls consistently on money downs. Ross, of course, looked to fill this criterion after his stellar freshman season, but so far this season Clemson doesn have a receiver that has reliably brought these balls in.DefenseAs per usual, I won be spending too much time on the defense because, outside of a few big plays, they were solid. I do want to include the following play because on the surface level it looks like a bad bust by the defense. However, after my rewatching it my opinion has shifted and I think it actually just a really good play call against the defense Venables called. Clemson starts in a 2-high shell before rolling Nolan Turner down the strong side Xavier Thomas Jersey . The coverage here is Cover 3. This means Clemson is relying on Phillips to cover anyone threatening the deep middle of the field and Goodrich has the responsibility to cover a deep third zone essentially from the sideline to about 5 yards from the hash . Judging from my Twitter timeline, many thought Turner was supposed to carry the slot receiver upfield, but that not the case. Turner job on this play is to cover the curl/flats area, which would be responsible for the RB leaking into the flats or a receiver running a shallow/intermediate route in Turner area. He is NOT responsible for deeper routes.

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