Questions abound for Napier

CLEMSON - Billy Napier has come under fire because of the struggles experienced by the Clemson offense this season.

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Statistically, the Tigers rank among the worst offensive teams in the ACC.

Clemson is last inside the red zone (69 percent), 10th in scoring (24.9), ninth in passing (187.6 yards) and total offense (339).

On Tuesday, Napier met with the media for weekly questions and answers. Below is an edited transcript of this week's session.

This season, you're 0-5 when passing 30 or more times a game. Is that coincidence?
Napier: I think a lot of that has to do with maybe the situation you're in at the end of the game, or maybe it's situations at the end of the half—whatever the case may be. I know that we've had a couple of losses this year where we've been in two-minute situations. For example, at the end of the half against Auburn, there was a two-minute situation where we scored. At the end of the half against Miami, we had a two-minute situation. At the end of the game the other night, we had a two-minute situation. A lot of that has to do with how the game's going and how the situations have presented themselves in the game. I do think, most of the time, if you're behind, or if you're in a situation where you're coming from behind, and it's late in the game, sometimes you get put in that position. North Carolina, for example, we're down two scores for two possessions. Once you get down two scores, you have to throw the ball in that short period of time….Those are just correlations of maybe how those games are going. When you're behind and you've got to score, you throw it more often. I think that's been the case this year in those losses, in particular. In my opinion, we've got to rush it effectively to be a winning football team around here. There's no feeling from me that's any different. I'm trying to play to our personnel strengths and maybe what we have to do within a game. One of the things we did well against Florida State, when we got behind the chains second and long, we threw and caught the ball well. We got ourselves back to third-and-short, third-and-manageable. The more you stay on schedule, the more options you have, and you can continue to run it. With Andre [Ellington] and Jamie [Harper] being who he is, the type of back that he is—that dictates how you call a game, as well. Kyle [Parker] has played some of his best ball, as of late. We're just trying to do what we need to do to create some points. Nothing's changed, in terms of my beliefs, or anything. I think you've got to show up every week and try to run it effectively. I think we did that last week.

How hard is for you as a play-caller when you have these long drives and it doesn't work out?
Napier: After it happens once or twice, you probably get more aggressive, in terms of trying to create touchdowns. But I do think that you've got to call the game, if we have to kick a field goal, let's kick the field goal and take the field goal. We did that twice on Saturday. [Chandler] Catanzaro made the kick. Looking at it objectively, we have to score touchdowns when we get down there. We've done that, to some degree this year, but we've also stumbled and needed to kick some field goals. Early in the year, we cashed those checks in, took our three and went to the next possession. Lately, we haven't been able to do that. Boston College, in particular, our kids didn't handle that well. The last two weeks, in terms of their moral, their resiliency, they've handled it better and went back for more.

Was Saturday what you've been seeing out of Harper all along?
Napier: Jamie is a talented kid. He's a tough kid. He's a blue collar kid. I'll put my name on him every day of the week. He was productive in the Auburn game. He was productive, when you think back about the type of game he played against North Texas, and the passion he played with there. Saturday was a good example of what kind of kid he is and how hard he plays and how important it is to him to do his best for his teammates. Obviously, we'd like to have Andre. Everybody knows that. Jamie is very capable of carrying the load. He showed that, and we tried to kind of cater to his strengths and what he does best. That was part of the plan. He showed up and laid it on the line. I was proud of the way he played.

Do you have autonomy [in play calling]? Is there a veto process over the headsets? How does that generally work?
Napier: I think it's like any program in America, in terms of the input of the head coach. Maybe some things he's seen within the game. He's looked over the plan and knows our plan. I call the plays. I don't think it's any different than maybe it is at any school. You can ask anybody, most head coaches have got input within each play, each play—however they do it. There's some input from the head coach. Coach Swinney is an offensive head coach. He definitely has input on our plan and within a game. I call the plays. That's no different than what it was last year when we were lighting the scoreboard up. It's no different. I think we've got a great relationship. Our staff understands how we do it and go about our business. It's been effective, at times. We'll continue to do how we have been doing it.

Is the fade pass an example of how you guys have been trying to do some different things?
Napier: Given when those were in the game, you get down there—obviously Hopkins had made some plays earlier in the game, in similar situations—Brandon [Ford] has shown that one of his strengths is going up and attacking the ball. I think that's more a product of the personnel that you have. You've had some red zone issues and you've tried to give the guys you feel best about going up and making a play.

When y'all do self-scout in the last few weeks, have there been a sufficient number of runs inside the red zone?
Napier: Yes. We analyze each possession, where it went wrong and maybe what you could have done differently. I think we're balanced down there. Maybe when you get to third-down, or maybe second-and-long, maybe you're tilted one way or the other. For the most part, we're balanced in each personnel group.


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