Fixing Clemson Football in 2011

CLEMSON - Everyone has their opinions on what needs to happen for Clemson to get to the "next level," but here are some real solutions on what truly needs to change before next season.

1. CHANGE THE OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY
A couple of things became crystal clear as we went through the 2010 season, outside of the fact it just wasn't Clemson's year.

And it starts with the notion Clemson is not a power team.

Clemson is not the college version of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Clemson is not Alabama.

At times it appeared this offensive staff wanted to be a power team and at times it was painfully obvious that it wasn't.

If this program is turn the corner under Dabo Swinney's watch it has to develop a spread identity on offense. And that holds especially true with the personnel coming in next season.

To the people that suggested all year long Clemson had no identity on offense this year - you were right.

While the loss of Andre Ellington obviously hurt, not to mention the lack of experienced wide receiers as well, the Tigers had nothing they could depend on to move the chains or put points on the board with the game on the line.

Next year, a true shotgun, spread-style quarterback (Tajh Boyd) takes control of the offense and he'll be surrounded by plenty of talent, even if it is young. If this program is going to fully take advantage of his skills, not mention that of Sammy Watkins, Mike Bellamy, Ellington and Dwayne Allen, it has to go to the spread.


With Clemson signing players like Sammy Watkins (pictured above), Mike Bellamy, not to mention Charone Peake, the personnel is in place to make a transition to a spread offense. (Roy Philpott)
Simple as that.

The future of college football is what's taking place right now at Auburn, Oregon, Mississippi State and other schools that have already made this transition.

More importantly, the spread is what matches Clemson's skill players starting next season.

Sure, the Tigers return four of five starters on the offensive line - a group that was unbelievably consistent throughout the season, but that doesn't mean this is a power team.

Clemson's personnel, even the offensive line fits in perfectly with a spread style.

Don't misconstrue what is written here- you don't have to change coordinators to do this. Clemson's Billy Napier didn't rise to where he is right now because he doesn't understand the game. He does. In fact he does probably more than anybody that reads this will ever know - but you do have to change philosophy and it has to start as soon as possible.

And while it's true Napier's background is more of a two-back power run game philosophy, he knows the kind of talent he has coming in next year and what kind of pressure it could put on opposing defenses in the ACC to have his unit move more to a spread style.

Of course, if Napier was offered the head coaching position at his alma mater and took the job, the Tigers would be on the market for a coordinator - well, that coordinator has to come from a spread background.

Either an established coordinator at a mid-major program right now or a young up and comer who's been under the direction of coaches like Chip Kelly, Dan Mullen or Gus Malzahn.

Simply put, if Clemson is going to take the next step in its development under Dabo Swinney - it has to start right here.

The zone blocking scheme is already in place - and with these new highly-skilled players coming in 2011 - it almost makes too much sense to make this offensive transformation.

Now.



#2. START TAJH BOYD IN THE BOWL GAME
Despite average stats in clean up time against South Carolina Saturday night, it was easy to see glimpses of what redshirt freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd is capable of.

His arm strength was as advertised.

His ability to buy time in the pocket by using his mobility, not to mention his downfield vision were a refreshing change of pace at the position.

And hey - his overall mobility also has to admired.


Tajh Boyd's skill set would be best served running a spread-style offense the next three years. (Roy Philpott)
Keep in mind he's not Woodrow Dantzler - however he is athletic enough to give Clemson a dimension it's sorely missed for 12 games this season.

He's also young. And with some of his decision making and ball handling against South Carolina - it was obvious he needs more experience. Fast.

On that front, if you want to maximize opportunities for wins in 2011- start Tajh Boyd in the bowl game.

Get him as much experience as possible to help prepare him for a 2011 slate that features what may be the defending National Champion Auburn Tigers traveling to Death Valley, plus road trips to Virginia Tech, South Carolina, N.C. State and home tilts with North Carolina and Florida State.

Kyle Parker was great for Clemson's 2009 season when the Tigers played their way into the ACC Championship Game. He was never a bad quarterback either - ranking fifth in school history in touchdown passes in just two seasons and passing for over 4,000 yards in the process. But for whatever reason, that magic was never recaptured this year.

If you want to play him a series or two or three - so be it.

But start Boyd.



#3. SOLIDIFY ALL SPECIALISTS DURING OFFSEASON
This one sounds relatively easy, but in reality it's not.

Long snapping cost Clemson on the road against No. 2 Auburn earlier this year in overtime, nearly cost it at home against N.C. State, and certainly didn't help matters in the season finale against South Carolina.

These issues have to be a thing of the past.

Chances are Clemson has its kicker for the next three years in Chandler Catanzaro. While the results through the middle part of the season leave much to be desired, he has made each of his last four field goal attempts during the season, and in practice, he's been literally almost perfect all year long.

Still, in games against Auburn, Boston College and Florida State it would be easy to point to Clemson's special teams, in particular the placekicking and say - "that's why the Tigers lost."


The special teams blunders that occured at No. 2 Auburn arguably changed the complexion of Clemson's 2010 season. (Getty Images)
Championship teams don't have these problems.

It's not like this staff, or the old one for that matter under Tommy Bowden, hasn't made this a priority as Spencer Benton, Richard Jackson and Dawson Zimmerman were all actively recruited as scholarship players.

So was long snapper Matt Skinner. And Catanzaro was thought of highly as well as a walk-on.

In addition, special teams coordinator Andre Powell has generally done a good job in his tenure increasing production level in the return game and decreasing mistakes in other areas.

For whatever reason this year- the wheels came off.

Headed into 2011, simply solidifying the long snapper position would go a long ways in settling things down and making this unit a more consistent weapon again.

It was written in this space early this summer the difference between Clemson playing in Charlotte in early December and late December could very well come down to a quality placekicker.

Indeed that proved to be accurate even if long snapping issues also played a part in the season not coming close to living up to expectations.

The good news is the program was a 55-yard field goal away from playing in the ACC Championship Game for the second consecutive year, but the bad news is 6-6 and losing to South Carolina by 22 points at home isn't going to cut it.

Ever.

There will have to be changes considered.

Moving more towards a spread attack on offense, starting Boyd in the bowl game and solidifying these special teams issues mentioned above would certainly be a step in the right direction.

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