Good starting piece from Brent Rollins on how Clemson handled (or, perhaps more accurately, didn’t handle Notre Dame’s and Ohio State’s offenses in its two losses last season.
Before diving into that, though, this is a pretty impressive bit of information:
One important thing to remember when watching their defense is the unit returns almost every player and is obviously loaded with talent and experience. In fact, of the 29 players who played at least 100 snaps on defense last fall, only four are no longer on the roster (all lost via transfer, including current Bulldog Derion Kendrick).
They’re experienced. But also, as Rollins points out, that means Georgia should have a pretty good idea of what it has to handle in the opener.
The main points can be summarized as follows:
- Tempo. “Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is well known for his defenses making numerous checks and adjustments based on what an offense shows (see how much they move in most clips), especially even as the play clock winds down. Thus, the Buckeyes worked supremely fast in certain situations.” Maybe it’s a fine line between signal stealing and just being able to figure out what the offense is going to run based on sets and final formation, but either way, OSU caught Clemson with their collective pants down repeatedly.
- Tight end usage. Okay, not gonna lie — this one has me licking my chops. “While the Buckeyes often used formation and motions to get the ball to their tight ends, the Irish used a lot of crossing routes. This play came against man coverage, but others (including below) against zone off a blitz. I would expect Todd Monken to use a combination of both, especially given the size and versatility of the Bulldog tight ends.”
- Play action deep shots. That’s part of the Monken playbook and he’s got (1) the running game to sell those and (2) the quarterback to take those.
- Handle the blitz. An area of deep concern for Georgia, given the uncertainty of how the o-line will be set for the opener, as Venables is as blitz-happy a coordinator as you’ll find. “Venables and the Tigers blitz as much as anyone in college football, from any and all angles/positions. Their overall blitz percentage (40.0) is 12th-most in the Power 5, and that jumps to fourth-most on third down (51.3 percent). They are also quite successful at getting to the quarterback when they do, as they had the fourth-most quarterback pressures in the Power 5 when blitzing.” That being said, he’ll be challenging the returning quarterback who had the best passer rating against the blitz last season.
- Winning the line of scrimmage. Yeah, easier said than done.
That last point is still my number one key to the game. The team with the o-line that wins the most, wins the game.
If Georgia’s getting north of six-and-a-half yards per rush, we can celebrate early. Something tells me it’s not gonna be that easy, though.