Attacking Clemson

There was a fair amount of sentiment expressed in the comments to yesterday’s post about how Georgia comes out of the gate in a couple of weeks about pounding Clemson early and often with the running game.  I understand why, but a look at last year’s stats and this year’s Tigers personnel suggests that’s not where that defense is most vulnerable.

Clemson was a really, really good football team with one terrible flaw. And this one flaw defined their season. It explains why they gave up 49 points to Florida State, were poorly matched against South Carolina, and had to like their chances against LSU…

… Clemson allowed 7.4 explosive pass plays per 100 passes, which is top 20 bad. They allowed an explosive play on 4.4% of run plays, which is top 5 bad. Adjusting for schedule, they are sandwiched between Colorado and New Mexico. Those two powerhouses combined for four wins against FBS opposition (Texas State, New Mexico State, Hawaii and Washington State). Florida State and South Carolina were both top-level explosive offenses in 2012 while LSU was not.

Bill Connelly in his Clemson preview notes much the same thing.

The problem was that, while efficiency is incredibly important, preventing big plays is even more important. And Clemson was still wretched in that regard. It’s difficult to rank 16th in Rushing Success Rate+ (efficiency) and 95th in Rushing PPP (explosiveness). That means that basically every time you let a runner get more than about four yards, you’re letting him gain 20. Clemson’s line stats were decent, but it still appears Venables has a way to go when it comes to structuring the back seven as he prefers.

Especially the back of that back seven.

When the Oklahoma defense was at its best under Venables, the Sooners had the pieces to oscillate seamlessly between a competent 4-3 and an almost even more competent nickel look. To combat the spread offense, you almost have to have a good nickel formation, which was a problem for Clemson last year: The Tigers really seemed to only have about four trustworthy (and healthy) defensive backs. Three are now gone, and while sophomore safety Travis Blanks could at some point turn into something pretty special and corner Martin Jenkins returns after missing 2012, the depth here is not what it needs to be.

So I’m not seeing a reason to start out lining up in the I-formation and pounding Gurley over and over and over.  Instead, what I think stands a better chance of success is coming out in single-back formations, spreading out Clemson’s defense with a mix and match of four receivers/TEs, forcing the Tigers to keep their safeties back in pass coverage and using the pass to set up the run.  Give Gurley and Marshall some space to operate in, and Bill’s “let a runner get more than about four yards, you’re letting him gain 20” observation could turn out to be prophetic.


Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

75 responses to “Attacking Clemson

  1. let a runner get more than about four yards, you’re letting him gain 20

    Keith Marshall, come on down!

    • Normaltown Mike


      If they are bad at busted plays for huge gains, Keith is our man to step on the neck.

      • adam

        Gurley’s not too bad at it either.

        A team that gives up big plays vs a team that creates a whole bunch of them? Sounds good.

  2. Ben

    I try to let most of the “dawg porn” just wash over me, but this give me tingles. Suddenly I’m seeing this play out more like UT ’12 rather than the Cap One. That’s not a guaranteed win, but nothing gets my heart racing like Gurley and Marshall in the open field.

  3. greeneggboy

    It sounds like Georgia and Clemson have similar issues in the secondary. My question is which front seven puts more pressure on the opposite QB? Our secondary is less of a liability if Taj Boyd is on the run the whole game.

  4. The other Doug

    I would prefer to run the ball up the middle early and let Murray get settled.

  5. They were terrible last year in giving up the big one, and the DBs are going to be worse this year than the last. They’re very much like UGA in the fact they lose a ton of experience from a year ago.

  6. The pistol with 3 WR, a TE, and Gurley/Marshall is the formation of choice in Death Valley. You can run between the tackles to either side of the formation, and you have four receivers who can attack down the field. If you’re Clemson, you either have to stay in a base 4-3 to stop the run and match a LB on our slot receiver, or you have to play nickel and risk Gurley/Marshall gashing you between the tackles.

    • uglydawg

      sounds good!

    • adam

      We can also go split back (or TB and FB), 2 WRs, and a TE and run everything from 5 wide to power with the same personnel. And we can go no-huddle if we get the defensive personnel we want to exploit. It’s the epitome of the Richt offense.

  7. uglydawg

    I’ve gotta agree with Sen. Bluto on this one. You’ve got to figure that Clemson is spending huge amounts of time figuring out how to stuff Georgia’s running game…You can’t just gash their front line and defense without setting it up. Everytime you get a 3 and out it will let Boyd back on the field. The Grand Old Way that a Georgia smash mouth running game works it to lay it on the defense beginning late in the 3rd when they’re kind of weary… I remember Worley, Hampton and Tate putting defenses away in the fourth…slicing off 8…10….12…20 yards at a clip..If Georgia ever gets up by two scores…then we’ll see some pounding…until then it will most likely be a very balanced and unpredictable mix between run and pass…like the Nebraska game. And given Clemson’s penchant for throwing and Boyd scrambling…might they have a suprise for everyone with a running game?..

  8. Scorpio Jones,III

    Since we are all daydreaming a bit, what I want to see is Georgia’s offensive line pound the snap out of Clemson’s defensive line for the first 10 minutes of the game….Gurley left, Marshall right, whatever….boom, boom, boom, down the field. If Murray just can’t stand it, throw for a touchdown. The defense will take care of itself a whole lot quicker if we can knock Clemson five yards off the football on a regular basis.

    Then, if you want to get all quakey in the knees, after the game, watch South Carolina’s game with Michigan….I am deeply afraid Carolina is a very good football team.

  9. Macallanlover

    As appealing and comfortable as pounding the running game is, for all the reasons expressed in several posts, the truth is success offensively will be choosing a variety of the many tools available at just the right time. I trust Bobo and Murray to “hit ’em where they ain’t”. They have a great track record of doing this that. I am thankful that no defense can be comfortable they are prepared for anything from the great running and passing game that was last season’s most prolific offense nationally. Minimize mistakes and it will not matter what Clemson has, or is prepared for. Let’s roll.

      • Dog in Fla

        “Sing it, Mac.”

        Trey, I liked it better when you were volunteering to coach tailbacks a couple of years ago instead of entertainment now. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is get Mac started on campfire songs. It’s not right. It’s a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Mac and in the ears of the rest of us. He’ll try to handle it and it’s going to be a big deal and we’ll all have to sing kumbaya with him or go to time-out

        • I forgot about that. I’m glad they didn’t need me. We all would be sad pandas if they did.

          If Mac gets enough scotch in him, you never know. I once had a man drunk on Macallan sprawled out on my front porch singing “O Holy Night.” That was pretty entertaining.

          • Dog in Fla

            Not only that, from what he posted yesterday, he also partakes of the Beefeater essence of juniper, likes diets, tuneups and being bad but not pina coladas or standing in the rain

            August 15, 2013 at 10:03 AM
            “Too sweet for me (sexy looking on the shelf though), loves me some Beefeaters though. That may be because I am a guy who thrives on the Atkins Diet for “tuneups” twice a year when I have been ‘bad”.

            That can only mean that after singing all the Eagles hits and the last sporting bird standing match, this will be the closing campfire song encore number with the Manziels

            • Macallanlover

              Don’t be putting baby in the corner, I have demonstrated a lot of flexibility, musically with The Eagles and my David Allen Coe song choice yesterday (much better than this selection), and in alcohol by adding a summer martini to my favored choice of brown water. The one thing you are right about though, I will leave that campfire song to you flakes and the Boy Scouts. No joining hands on that theme song, you and Babs can chase that shattered dream.

    • Rugbydawg79

      Goose bumps Mac ! +1

  10. After the year Bobo, Murray, et al had last year, don’t you think he’ll have a pretty good gameplan on how to exploit Clemson’s defense? Isn’t that what a good offense does: exploit their advantages against their opponent?

    Yesterday, I read a lot of three yards and a cloud of dust mumbo jumbo. We have to get Murray settled; we have to protect the defense; we don’t want a shootout; we want to limit possessions. You know what settles a QB and protects a defense? A 21 point lead.

    A lot of fans still have an underdog mentality from the 1990’s: if we can just keep it close, we can find a way to win in the fourth quarter. F that. Come out with your guns blazing. Score early and often and as quick as possible. If they feel they have to score every time they get the ball, the pressure will mount and Clemson’s butthole will pucker up like it always does. If Clemson can stop this offense, there was no hope anyway. All the championship talk was moot, and we’ll be better off knowing it was a pipe dream before September is even here.

    If the offense has to carry the day, let them do their thing.

    • Otto

      I don’t have the keep it close mentality but I have the mentality to be ready to go in the 4th qtr with team that isn’t sucking wind and has atleast a 2 TD lead.

      If you score quick eventually the other team will score especially on a young tired defense. Clemson’s offense can take advantage of young UGA secondary especially if they are tired and I do not buy that Clemson will rollover if they get down early.

      Further quick strike offenses lead to lower defensive stats in most areas. Look at Auburn’s 2010 defense, they were ranked in the bottom half of the SEC. I’m not going to say they were great as they certainly weren’t but they did keep an explosive Oregon well under their average. As for keep it close we did that with Bama when the game was on the line the offense was not sorted enough to pull it out. I’m not concerned about the call to spike it or run the play. I’m concerned that the QB was not immediately on the same page as the OC.

      • Biggus Rickus

        You score however you can score. As it happens, Georgia will often do so with quick strikes, because they have players capable of ripping off big plays in the running game and an offense that isn’t geared to grind out drives necessarily. This will be especially true against Clemson, if they hold to their defensive form of a year ago.

        • Otto

          UGA in the early CMR years could make big plays but when needed could compose a 5+ minute drive in the 3rd or 4th qtr to ice the game. Those have been sorely missing, improving again but still not up that level.

          • Biggus Rickus

            If they are in a position to ice the game, I’m sure they will try to do exactly that. I’m not sure what that has to do with a quick strike offense. It certainly wouldn’t hurt them, nursing a 4-point lead late, to score a touchdown on a 2-play drive that doesn’t run much clock.

        • Scorpio Jones,III

          Biggus….what I thought I meant I said (?) was that if we have an offensive line that regularly knocks folks five yards off the line of scrimmage, we can, and will, do damn near anything Bobo can think of (which is probably a lot scarier than any of us can imagine). I have seen one of those offensive lines…we all have, last December, and that’s what I want. If we got that all things are possible.

      • I think where we disagree is the idea that a fresh, inexperienced defense will not give up scores. They are inexperienced. That doesn’t mean they aren’t in shape. The worry with inexperience is that they will make mistakes that lead to big plays.

        I rewatched the LSU-Clemson game last night. LSU had a 2TD lead (really just 11 points) with one quarter left to play. LSU was undoubtedly more physical and had more depth on defense, meaning it was pretty fresh going into the fourth quarter. All of those things you propose Georgia needs to win. The result? Clemson held the ball for 11:25 in the fourth quarter, scoring a TD and two field goals on their three drives to win the game. LSU ran 48 plays (4.56 ypp) to Clemson’s 100 (4.45 ypp).

        In the Clemson-Florida State game, Clemson ran 77 plays (5.5 ypp) while FSU ran 75 plays (8.89 ypp). Clemson had a 10-point lead halfway through the third quarter. FSU rattled off 28 straight points. Clemson’s drives in that span? 3 and out, 3 and out, 3 and out, pick, 3 and out… or in other words, they’re assholes puckered, and they couldn’t get out of their own way. Up to that point, Clemson had 357 yards of offense on 53 plays (6.74 ypp). FSU won by 12 after a garbage TD by CU. FSU had two different 100-yard rushers, and their QB threw for 380 to eight different receivers.

        Clemson is going to get their plays and their yards and their points regardless of how much clock the offense eats up. The real question is will UGA’s offense (and thus, UGA as a whole) be more successful playing like LSU or FSU. I can tell you which way Clemson hopes they choose.

        • adam

          In the Orange Bowl against WVU, Clemson showed that they are totally capable of collapsing when the other team’s offense puts pressure on them.

          Their stats look nice because they blow out bad teams. And they score all the way to the end of the game. But this is a team that struggled with an offense-less LSU, an AWFUL Auburn, and an AWFUL Georgia Tech.

          I think we can really stomp these guys.

    • Sanford222View


  11. Irwin R Fletcher

    A good look at this is actually the LSU game. The LSU offense was not explosive in 2012 ranking 75th nationally…yet they scored on a 17 yard run on one drive and a 57 yard run on another. They really only had one sustained drive the whole game. Otherwise, it was 3 and out or maybe a first down but not much else against the Clemson Tigers.

    This was good enough for a 11 point lead heading into the 4th Q and really put LSU one play or one drive away from winning the game…ultimately losing on a FG.

  12. Otto

    I’m not as concerned about exploiting their defense as keeping our experienced defensive players fresh. UGA managed to get Bama into a bit of a shoot out last year which was certainly getting them out of their game plan. However, I don’t trust our staff in a shoot out especially against someone as explosive as Clemson. I agree with the Grittree on game planning. As always on offense, you should use one area to setup another but the emphasis should be on eating clock.

    • However, I don’t trust our staff in a shoot out especially against someone as explosive as Clemson.

      You know who was more explosive than Clemson last year? Georgia. Don’t you think they are kinda thinking the same thing? Clemson doesn’t want to get in a shootout with Georgia because Georgia thrived on big plays and Clemson gave up a ton of big plays. Trying to grind it out against Clemson is playing into their hands. This one game is setting back advancements in game theory by two decades.

    • Biggus Rickus

      Why don’t you trust our staff in a shootout? They won several last year. For that matter, if you don’t trust them in a shootout, then why would trust them in any other situation?

  13. DawgPhan

    you mean to tell me that folks outside the arena might not have the experience or put the effort into research before making play calling suggestions?

    and lo and behold that their half cocked play calling suggestions might not be the best plays….who would have thought that…crazy times…

  14. uglydawg

    I’ve been reading the Clemson blogs….they are just crazy…Most of the more verbal Tiger fans are convinced that they are going to go 12-0 and win the national championship. That stadium will be every bit as noisy and amped up as WB Stadium at S.C. was last year…Clemson will take their cue from SC and Georgia had better be ready for some early craziness. If Clemson gets a lead it will be huge for them. Georgia needs to win the toss, take the ball and quieten the crowd. BTW, Clemson lost another tight end to a knee injury yesterday.

  15. AusDawg85

    Bobo’s already game-planned this:1st & Bomb, 2nd Fullback Dive, 3rd Draw play! 😉 Amirite!!

    Seriously…shut down Boyd and the game is ours. Watkins will probably get a long one or two, but we’ll more than counter that like in the Nebraska game.

  16. WillTrane

    Les Miles’ 4th quarter strategy? Some of the worst coaching ever. Plus, many think LSU does not have what it had in past. But when you get eat up by injuries on your O line like they did…well, starting 3 frosh does not help late in the season and in a bowl game. Frosh do not have the mental and physical edge like upper classmen late in at season.

  17. WillTrane

    Nite scrimmage. Gurley had 3 recps for 72 yards. Like to know what the personnel package and sets were. Murray says goodbye to Marlon Brown and how do you do Conley. Take away…11 mins in 4th…see twin TEs and power rb’s…does Bobo stay close to pts thru 3 and then goes to depth on O. Going to be a fun game, but Grantham will be the key…can not have a 2nd half like SECCG.

  18. AthensHomerDawg

    Gurley and Marshall are gonna have some great receiving numbers.

  19. W Cobb Dawg

    If we take our foot off the gas, as we have a bad habit of doing, I’ll be worried. I don’t want to see us ‘dinking’ it with short passes that don’t even get to the first down marker. One thing I’m not worried about is handing the ball to Gurley, and to a lesser extent Marshall – those 2 RBs are as explosive as any players in cfb. They are not ‘cloud of dust’ bulldozers. Give ’em a hole and defenders will be eating dust while we take it to the house.

  20. WH

    Honestly, because of how much of the game is the (un)lucky bounce of the ball, I see two factors determining this outcome: injuries & turnovers. If both teams show up full strength and protect the ball equally well, I see the Dawgs winning by 7+. But if one side has a combination of injuries and/or negative TO margin, this game swings 21+ in either direction.

  21. Cosmic Dawg

    I again think we (and possibly some of the football people) may be concentrating too much on time of possession. I wonder if time of possession is the RESULT of an efficient offense, making that team most likely to win. I do not see time of possession really being hugely strategic except at the very, very end of 2nd and 4th quarters.

    Similarly, number of plays run is all the rage right now. To the extent that an uptempo offense keeps the defense unbalanced, okay. But running six inefficient plays quickly is not as good as running three efficient plays slowly. I hope that we focus on being as efficient as possible, and if that means uptempo, so be it.

    All this talk of keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands is a little crazy to me unless one team has appreciably less depth or it’s right at the end of a half. If you score a TD, you can’t have a better outcome for your drive, and you must turn it over to the other team. Then, no matter what happens, they can’t have a better result than the TD you just scored. So your ONLY goal should be to have your offense gain yardage in the most efficient way available to your team, and that will give you your best outcome with a few minor caveats. Slow or fast, on the ground or in the air, be efficient with your offense rather than getting hung up on stats that, in my poor football judgment, are likely the RESULT, rather than the CAUSE, of efficiency.

    • Otto

      Some strong points. My concern is that secondary is thin with a true Freshman starting at Safety. Plenty of players must step up to and be leaders on defense.

      The OL has depth and returning players, RB is loaded, QB returning. It is perfect for a ground control game. I’ll take the odds of UGA’s experienced ground attack against a Clemson defense. UGA has the WRs and TEs to keep the offense balanced. I certainly would not complain with the RBs breaking a long run. However I don’t think we should go for it all too often on 2nd and manageable with a 30 yard pass. Yes making the defense take note of that threat certainly should be a priority but I feel that we have gone for it too often at times. It is all in the mix. I also feel putting both Marshal and Gurley on the field at the same time would create headaches for Clemson’s defense especially since UGA has not done that in the past and as we know both can break a run at any time. Marshal could line up at slot or in a 2 back set depending on what Murray sees. The RBs are both big enough to block for the other.

      I don’t want to sell out up tempo and big plays. Just to get a small lead and then have a tired young defense. It is a recipe to get burned. The DBs:

      • Cosmic Dawg

        If you’re saying that “all things being about equal”, ie our run game is about as strong as our pass game, even against Clemson’s weak secondary, then I can see trying to give our DB’s a little more rest.

        It may be that we can have our cake and eat it, too, but it strikes me that Clemson is stronger against the run than against the pass, so we may want to lean pass in this particular game, even if it puts our young D back on the field more quickly.

        I can’t prove anything, but I just personally think being white hot focused on YPP and scoring rather than “game management” will generally yield a better result for us…and by a happy accident, high YPP yields more scoring or moving the chains, so we’re either resting the D or making our opponent’s scoring on our young D somewhat of a moot point either way.

        (This also goes back to our old habit of taking our foot off the gas in the 4th quarter for “security”. If you’re winning a game – scoring on a team for 3 quarters – the best “security” is to keep doing whatever you were doing earlier to score all those points, except maybe at the very, very end.)

        • adam

          I have this strange feeling that Richt won’t take his foot off the gas in this game until it’s 100% won. Even Holgorsen eventually called off the dogs on Clemson when they hit 70 points. Richt knows what’s at stake this year and after getting so close this year, he’s going full out to win it all this year.

  22. Dog in Fla

    Cosmic, Cosmic, Cosmic, hasn’t it been well-established here by all/many/some/a few/one expert(s) that the reason we gave up 350 rushing was because Bobo was scoring too damn fast making it a bad deal for Todd’s D because they were (a.) tied to a whipping post or (b.) too few to be even A Few Good Men who could stop the rush?

    • Cosmic Dawg

      lol – that is a really funny comic. But I do understand what they’re saying. If you have a thin defense, and can run or pass with equal success, you may want to lean toward the run…

  23. diggity_dawg

    Another factor to consider is that we’ll be without the other Marshall who kicks fg’s. Not having him should factor in what we should do in the redzone and midfield. And Pope Urban has shown, most TD’s happen not in the redzone, but from big plays outside of it, which to me means we need to be going to the air often, especially given their weak secondary and pass rush.

  24. shane#1

    UGA has two RBs with game experience and the very physical USCe coming up. UGA has eleventyteen WRs and two good TEs and a QB that can chunk it, plus Marshall catches the ball well. The Dawgs are playing a team that scores, a lot, but seems to be weak in the secondary and may lack a pass rush. I would prefer multiple sets and a double dose of the pistol and the shotgun in single back sets. Save the power I to ice the game. Spread their D and run out of the single back sets, win the game, and try not to get 3 and 4 banged up.

  25. shane#1

    As to my post above, would the shotgun with Gurley and Marshall in the backfield be a double barreled shotgun? Anyway, let’s hope Clemson brings a knife to a gun fight.

  26. Krautdawg

    Three thoughts about this game:

    1) If these are Clemson’s weaknesses, a game plan like the one against Florida last year would fit well. Single-back pistol sets with 3 wide & a TE, setting up lots of off-tackle runs from that spread formation. It worked well against the Gators; we just kept turning it over on passing plays. If AM finds & hits the open man instead, that game plan is deadly.

    2) What’s Venables going to do if we line up like that? If he goes 4-3, he leaves himself vulnerable to play-action & fast slot receivers. If he goes nickel he leaves himself vulnerable to runs. Option 1 is to call nickel with strategic run blitzing–essentially bait us into running into a blitz. To counter that, we’ll need a RB that can break one tackle — Mr. Gurley, please step forward — or a good QB read. Option 2 is to take away the run & force us to pass while sending edge rushers at AM. Death Valley’s loud & AM’s rattled, not a bad option. In that case we might need to rehash the 5-wide offense we used successfully at Mizzou.

    3) What if Clemson can run on us? Most of us seem to assume that the run D’s problems were due to Garner & lack of depth. We’ve got a new DL coach and a bunch of new players. But what if they come out running well against us nonetheless? We’ll see if Grantham’s earned his raise, I guess.

  27. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Pass ’em silly, Dawgs. Make the Tigers defend the whole field.

  28. Keese

    Said it before, game will be decided by safety play. Pure and simple

  29. 3AM Bildungsroman

    First Ga game I saw was ’79 in Death Valley. My childhood introduction to white trash. Ugliest orange of them all.

    Clem / Clem’s Son: