They acted as though the offense and defense was real complex, but in reality, they pretty much had it all figured out.
That was then. This is now.
There is a real sense that because of the two new coordinators for the Tigers, opposing teams are somewhat unsure of what to expect. Maybe early in the season the schemes on both sides of the ball were easier to breakdown, but they have since been under constant growth and change.
Just ask N.C. State whether they knew what was going on with the Clemson offense and defense.
"The thing with Clemson is you don't know who they're trying to get the ball to and you don't know where they're going to line up," said Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey. "It's almost a double-whammy."
Tigers offensive coordinator Rob Spence is constantly devising ways to move the ball more effectively and efficiently. It seems he comes up with new plays and formations every single week.
For an example, Clemson has had 17 players catch a pass, which is an extraordinarily high number consider that the team has been involved in mostly tight games.
"You can't look for player matchups as much as you have to look for formation matchups," Gailey said. "You put the strain on your players to know that every receiver is a viable receiver in every formation. Normally, when somebody gets in this formation, they're going to throw it to this guy or this guy and when they get in this formation or grouping, they're going to throw it to this guy or this guy and you cannot get any of those tendencies against Clemson.
"It's really tough to narrow things down for your defense. When they're playing all those people and throwing to all those different guys, it puts a strain mentally on your players."
Gailey believes one aspect that will help his defense is the unlikeness that freshman tailback James Davis will play for Clemson. Instead, they Yellow Jackets will get a major dose of Reggie Merriweather.
"Well, Davis was playing very well, but I think that you're better off if you only have to worry about one player instead of two," Gailey said. "I hate it for James, but it's one of those situations when someone is banged up and can't play. I'm sure Merriweather will take advantage of the opportunity."
Defensively, Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning uses a base defense, but he alters it based on the team he's facing. For instance, against the Wolfpack, he used a new formation that the Tigers hadn't used all year.
Gailey added that he doesn't think Clemson star cornerback Tye Hill will guard stud receiver Calvin Johnson solely.
"They'll do that the majority of the time because they have issues with coverage if you put him in the slot because they would have to change a couple of guys to get lined up and take care of their responsibilities," Gailey said. "I think (Sergio Gilliam) is a guy that's 6-foot-3 and matches up pretty well in regards to size. It would be interesting if they tried to do something with him because of the fact that he's a 6-3 corner."
One aspect Gailey feels good about entering Saturday's game is the fact that his team got an unexpected week off due to the hurricane in South Florida. They used the extra time to prepare for Clemson and get their extremely beat up team in a better playing condition.
"We've really used this unscheduled open week to get well and we do have some guys that have been able to get a little bit healthier, so we'll be able go into this ball game at fairly close to full strength," he said. "We may have a couple of guys that are banged up and can't play, but for the most part, we'll be as strong as we've been since earlier in the season."
Nonetheless, Gailey still has some nerves about facing Clemson.
"Anytime you face a good football team, you're nervous," he said. "That's the thing about coaching, you're 50 percent nervous and 50 percent confident and I'm not sure those two go together. But that's about how you are."
Gailey: Tigers Unpredictable
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