Move Provides Offensive Balance

CLEMSON – The simple move of switching offensive line positions with Barry Humphries and Thomas Austin has provided great dividends the last two weeks and this week will likely field the same results.

But it's the last three weeks of the season that will ultimately show if it was a worthwhile change.

While not every problem with the offensive line has been solved, early indications are that by moving Austin to center and Humphries to guard, the Clemson offense is more sound and balanced because of better production.

In the two games since the move, Clemson has rushed for nearly 600 yards and scored 100 points. For the first time this season, the Tigers are showing the ability to be able to run and pass the ball, which is an absolute must for a team to challenge for conference and division titles.

"As long as we can be balanced, it keeps teams off one thing," junior receiver Aaron Kelly said. "It opens up either the pass or the run game, so we can play off either one. The better we pass, the easier it is to run. The better we run, the easier it is to pass."

Through the first six games of the season, Clemson relied mostly on the pass because the offensive line couldn't open up holes consistently enough for the backs to dart through.

However, passing wasn't always a good option, either, as quarterback Cullen Harper was constantly pressured and either took a sack or was forced to scramble and throw the ball away.

Through the first six games, the Tigers were one of the worst teams in the league in terms of allowing sacks.

Even so, Harper was still able to put up some gaudy numbers and break all kind of school records.

"We've been throwing the ball well, amazingly," junior receiver Tyler Grisham said. "Now that we have the run game back in there, it's tough for defenses with our offense, which has shifts, motions and tons of formations. They have to think about the run and pass now, not just the pass."

That's quite a difference from last year, when the Tigers tried to win nearly every game by running because quarterback Will Proctor was incapable of beating any team with his throwing arm.

"At the end of the year, we couldn't do anything, even running the ball," Grisham said. "(Opponents) knew we were going to run it, and it was so tough. We didn't have that timing we had at the beginning of the year passing the ball. We lost timing with our quarterback."

And while Clemson should put up more lofty numbers against Duke on Saturday, it's the games against Wake Forest, Boston College and South Carolina that will prove whether or not the switch truly saved the season.

One thing is for sure, though, and it's that the Tigers now truly believe they can run and pass. And that is half the battle.

"It's strange to think about it," Grisham said. "Last year we were just a run team. It's great to have that balance. It really opens up the offense so we feel like we can do anything or call anything."

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