Offense Evolving Under Spence

CLEMSON – While Clemson's offense wasn't exactly perfect against Texas A&M, one thing is for sure, the 2005 version is much more complex, precise, efficient and better than a year ago.

However, this is just the beginning as it will grow with each passing week. And by the time the season comes to an end, the offense of the Tigers will likely look vastly different.

"It's an ongoing development based on talent of our offense," said offensive coordinator Rob Spence. "It depends totally on the development of the players within the system. It isn't going to be something where I can script. I've got to see who develops into a strength, who develops into a game-breaking player and build the offense around the talent of those players.

"That's what we've done every year, we've kind of evolved during the course of the season as we see our personalities of the different players unfold; as we see the ability level of the different players unfold; as we see our strengths unfold and build it around that."

An example of just how complex the offense is there were more than 30 different formations used in 75 plays. And that number will grow with each week.

But even to the untrained eye, there were changes that were blatantly obvious to the most casual of observers.

Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst lined up under center more times than not, which is a total change of philosophy from 2004. Also, Whitehurst completed three passes to tight end Cole Downer. Whitehurst also threw two incomplete passes intended for a tight end. When's the last time anyone could say that about a Tommy Bowden team at Clemson?

More importantly, Whitehurst, who had 17 interceptions last season, completed 74 percent of his passes against the Aggies and didn't turn the ball over once.

"I think Charlie played consistently," Spence said. "I think he played within the framework of what we're trying to do offensively within the system. And he managed the game beautifully. He did a good job with the checks and just the game plan in itself. Is there a better Charlie Whitehurst out there? Is there room for improvement? No question about it. And he recognizes that and I recognize that. But his improvement is going coincide with the improvement of all the other positions, too. He's not out there on an island."

The running game appears to be more to be more effective, but the jury is still out. Yes, it's true the Tigers ran 51 times, but it was only for 183 yards. That's an average of 3.6 per carry. The goal is generally closer to 4.0. But regardless, the number is still better than the woeful 3.1 the team averaged last year.

And while Spence admittedly doesn't concern himself much with statistics, there are a few numbers that jumped out at him from Saturday's game, like winning the time of possession by 11-plus minutes and keeping Texas A&M's offense off the field.

"The clock is one of those unseen factors in every single game," Spence said. "And there is something to the element of time that you hold onto the ball. I know being an offensive coordinator I am an actual wreck upstairs when I don't have the ball. When we don't have the ball and I see that clock ticking away, I start feeling a tension that I imagine the other guy feels when he doesn't have the ball.

"You just want the ball. I always want the ball on offense as a coordinator. I want to keep that ball. I feel at home when that ball is in our hands. I think you create a tension on the other side when they don't have it. That's one of those unseen, unthought of facets of the game."

And by having the ball longer, there is more of an opportunity to have big plays on offense, which is the other main stat Spence looks at. Turnover margin is obviously important, but he can't control how many the defense gets.

"One of the things that statistically stands out is if you out-big-play your opponent," Spence said. "Now, big play in NFL terms is defined as 16-yard pass, 12-yard run. If you have two more big plays than your opponent, you stand between an 85 to 88 percent chance of winning the game, regardless of all the other factors involved. That's something we measure. That's something we look at. That's something I want to be successful at and I aim towards.

"But again, that is by design. You'd like to think that you have an offense that can produce the big plays. But you've got to scheme that, you've got to hope that you fall into some of them, which we did. But you can't just say that's a measure of success in and of itself."

That is measured by the only stat that matters, the number of wins in a season. Top Stories