CLEMSON — If there is one area the Clemson coaching staff understands they have to get better in this spring, it is clearly the offense.
While the Tigers averaged 33.3 points per game last year, that number does not tell the reality of how the offense truly struggled.
In 2016, the Tigers finished the season ranked 14th in scoring offense (39.2 points per game), seventh in passing offense (333.9 yards per game), 71st in rushing offense (169.73 yards per game) and 12th in total offense (503.7 yards per game).
In 2017, the Tiger offense improved in rushing offense, jumping 36 spots to 35th nationally at 194.07 yards, but fell drastically in every other major offensive category. The Tigers dropped 18 spots to 32nd in scoring offense (33.3 points per game), 54 spots to 61st in passing offense (235.5 yards per game) and 26 spots in total offense to 38th (429.6 yards per game).
After spending the majority of the time between their last game and the start of spring practice studying tendencies and self-scouting, the Tiger offensive staff believes its has narrowed the reason for the lack of success last season to three areas: tempo, screens and downfield passing.
“Obviously, the last time were on the grass, we didn’t have a good taste in our mouth,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “You can see that there’s a sense of urgency with these guys. The leadership that we have and the veterans that we have back have set the tempo.
“Tempo is something that we have been stressing and the guys have been moving around good.”
Tempo is a word that is heard being yelled by the coaching staff all during practice. “Tempo, tempo, tempo” is screamed at the top of their lungs urging the players to move faster, play quicker. But it is something that was a struggle at times last year.
That struggle was, in part, due to the Tigers playing such a young group on offense. But this season, that is not an excuse.
“I think there are times last year we could have played faster,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Part of that is you’ve got a lot of guys out there for the first time going through everything. Now, with all of those guys coming back, we expect to play faster and we will emphasize that early in spring ball and will continue to do that.”
Tempo is only the first issue the Tigers are looking to address this spring.
“The next thing is improving out screen game,” Scott said. We saw a decline in that last year. We really need to be able to stress defenses horizontally. Some of our outward screens, I don’t thing we were as efficient as we needed to be.”
The final area is explosive plays — namely, the downfield passing game.
Last season, the Tigers averaged only 2.8 plays per game of 20-plus yards — down from 4.9 plays per game in 2016.
“The last area (we need to improve) was explosive plays down the field,” Scott said. “When we had the opportunities, we didn’t connect. Our standard around here is the 50-50 balls are usually 90-10 balls for us. That’s what we’re used to with the guys that we have here. Last year, we were back in the 50-50 range.
“That’s not where we want to be. That’s something that our guys have spent a lot of time watching video and finding the way to correct that and make some of those plays. We’ve made some of the plays early in spring ball.”