5 Questions for Clemson Football

After Saturday's 41-23 loss to Virginia Tech, the midway point of the 2007 season is here. Here are five questions that must be answered if the Tigers are to show significant improvement the second half of the year.

This may be the most concerning aspect to this year's team. While a drop off was to be expected after losing long time starters Nathan Bennett, Roman Fry, Dustin Fry and Marion Dukes, it wasn't supposed to be like this. This unit has given up 10 sacks in the last two games and has failed open holes for two of the most explosive running backs in the country. While it is true Clemson abandoned the running game entirely after falling behind 31-8, the Tigers managed just eight rushing yards on 23 attempts. There are clearly holes on this year's line and the weaknesses are easy to spot, but players like Barry Richardson should be playing at a much higher level and this unit overall should be playing better.

How many more bubble screens can possibly be thrown the second half of the season? Is any defense really fooled when Cullen Harper fakes the screen to one side of the field before turning around and throwing it to the other side? Forget about the yardage, what about the sheer health of the wide receivers? Did anybody see the hit on Jacoby Ford? Do you think Virginia Tech was ready for that play after watching it on film 7,000 times? The bubble screen is fine to use on occasion, but it shouldn't be the focal point of your offensive game plan. Enough already, throw the ball down the field or run the draw to Davis or Spiller.

Let's be clear on one thing, the play of Cullen Harper did not lose the Virginia Tech game. Harper started slowly, made some poor throws, including one that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, but he then rebounded when Clemson went to a throw-it-every-down mentality. However, when the first 10 possessions of the game end like this: interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, field goal, punt, fumble, shouldn't your backup quarterback get one series to see if he can provide a spark? Why will this staff not look at using its backup quarterback? Willy Korn is healthy and could very well have provided a spark. He may not have won the game but what would it hurt to try him for a series? Bowden himself said two weeks ago he planned on getting Korn meaningful snaps this season. Where are those snaps now?

After a 7-1 start last season, the Tigers are now 5-6 in their 11 games. Two of those wins have come against N.C. State, one against Furman, one against Louisiana Monroe and another against Florida State. With the cream puffs out of the way this year, the rest of the 2007 schedule will be no walk in the park with road trips to Maryland and South Carolina, not to mention home games with Wake Forest and a Boston College team that is ranked in the top 10 and undefeated. Anybody seen Duke lately? I won't even go there but you can on the Blue Devils pulling the upset at least one more time this year. At the same time, we've seen Tommy Bowden do it before. He's turned around seasons just when it seemed there was no hope for success. And believe it or not, this year isn't the biggest hole this program has had to get out of. Still, it is very concerning to note that Clemson's last 10 losses have occured with Clemson listed as the lined favorite. The "back against the wall" mentality has to return ... quick.

The mentality of this unit needs to change immediately because nothing else is working. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer admitted after the Hokies' win Saturday night his team spends one-third of their practice time on special teams. "We stop practice for special teams," he said. After years of issues across all areas of Clemson's special teams, perhaps this would be a step in the right direction. Bowden has repeatedly said he's spending as much time as he can on fixing the problems that continue to cost the Tigers football games. It's too much to expect good special teams play from this team. How about average?

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