Will Clemson Open It Up Against BC?

CLEMSON – By his own admission, Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence says he doesn't like to take chances. But against Boston College last season, his play calling was more conservative than staunchest Republican.

Consider: Of the Tigers' 23 first downs during regulation, 15 were running plays, 10 of which went for three yards or less.

Moreover, of the eight pass plays called on first down, two resulted in sacks and five of the six completions went for six yards or less. In other words, only on completion gained more than six yards.

That's what happens when a tight end, running back and fullback account for half of the receptions, and two of the completions to the receivers were bubble screens.

"By nature, I'm probably somewhat of a conservative play caller," Spence said. "I believe in putting our team into a position to win games and not lose games, but I also do like to attack people. But I have to feel very confident that I have the weapons to attack and the people are all on the same page to do that."

As a result of close-to-the-vest play calling on first down, Clemson ultimately faced second-and-long and third-and-long situations, which is never a recipe for success.

During regulation, the Tigers had 10 plays on third down and they failed to convert a single one of them. The average distance of those 10 plays to gain a first down was 5.7 yards. Only two of the downs required less than five yards to keep the drive going.

Spence admitted that his conservative play calling led to those circumstances against Boston College.

"I think in some ways, yes," he said. "When I'm coaching, I take into consideration the balance of the whole game and I take into consideration the quality of our defense that we put on the field and the quality of our kicking game; what the atmosphere's like; who's making plays. And I think that all added up last year to where I played the game the way I did.

"We were in a position to win the game based on all of the things I said. I didn't want to put ourselves in a position where we couldn't make a play to win the game, either. And I think with (quarterback) Charlie (Whitehurst) at that point in time, it wasn't fair to put so much on his shoulders and some of our other players, too."

One of the gaudiest statistics from the game last season is that of Clemson's 12 possessions, eight resulted in four plays or less. The Tigers had five possessions of three-and-out.

Nonetheless, Spence believes unadventurous play calling was the way to go.

"I don't think (it was) too conservative," he said. "I think I was playing the hand I had been dealt. I think because of the youth of the players and because of the learning curve and because of the players that I had in that moment in time, I don't think we were too conservative at all."

As Clemson enters its 14th game with Spence at the helm, he is getting more comfortable with his players. And as that comfort grows in the team, so to will his confidence in opening up the offense.

At Toledo, Spence said he had offenses that used a ball-control style, as well as a sling-it-everywhere style. Where do the Tigers fit in?

"We're probably more in the middle right now, moving in the direction that's to be announced," he said. "I don't know what the future holds. I've got to see how we grow and mature at different positions. If we can develop at certain positions skill wise and have some quality play from our quarterback and running backs, things could get special. But that's yet to be seen."

CUTigers.com Top Stories