Monday Morning QB: More Questions

CLEMSON - When your team is struggling to find an identity, such as Clemson is through three games this season, you look for small victories.

The mere fact that we're talking about the Tigers trying to find that identity is an indication of the struggle this team currently faces. How many of us had any idea this team would be embarrassed three weeks ago, then follow up with two uninspiring wins over inferior opponents?

But such is the reality of Clemson's situation with one quarter of the season gone.

The good news continues to be there is plenty remaining to play for, despite the misgivings of many Tiger fans. But the unexpected questions surrounding the program continue to loom.

Yes, we knew the offensive line would be inexperienced. We didn't know it would get totally manhandled vs. Alabama, then picked apart by injuries to the point that three redshirt freshmen started Saturday against N.C. State.

We knew the linebackers were extremely young and would need time to gel behind a talented, deep defensive front. We didn't know that defensive front would also be hit by injuries and, healthy or not, show a soft spot in the middle against the run against the two major opponents on its schedule thus far.

We knew the expectations for this season were high. We didn't know a loss to Alabama in the opener would cause a dark cloud to engulf this team and fan base, a cloud that still lingers even after back-to-back victories.

So to placate yourself, you look for the aforementioned small victories.

Things like the running of C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford Saturday, whether it be in the ground game or after the catch. Both showed a toughness which had, for the most part, eluded them through their first two years in orange. Small things, like running through contact as opposed to the safety of stepping out of bounds.

The good news continues to be there is plenty remaining to play for, despite the misgivings of many Tiger fans. But the unexpected questions surrounding the program continue to loom.
Little nuances which show the players are being coached and, more importantly, can be coached.

You embrace the fact that the patchwork offensive line didn't allow a sack against a defensive front which beat South Carolina quarterback Tommy Beecher to a pulp a couple of weeks back. And that the running game performed reasonably well. Not spectacular. But okay.

And you hope, pray even, that as the line gets more practice time together, Saturday's performance will improve.

But you also have concerns.

Again, showing a propensity for allowing yardage between the tackles. Or the defense having difficulties getting off the field on third down.

Yes, the Wolfpack was just 7-for-17 on third down conversions, but didn't it seem like much more than that? And thank the football gods that Tom O'Brien's team is a woeful offensive club, one which couldn't take advantage of moving the chains seven extra times.

Even though your team is 2-1, the bad still seems to outweigh the good. That dark cloud again. Still hanging around.

Still plenty of questions surrounding the Tigers.

And with another lower-division team coming into Death Valley this weekend, the answers remain weeks away.


Dan Scott is host of the sports talk show Cruise Control on the flagship station for Clemson sports 104.9 FM The Drive weekdays from 9 AM to 12 PM. You can send Dan a story idea or ask Dan a question for his new mailbag feature coming up on CUTigers.com at writerdan33@aol.com.

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