If you've been reading the Barrel for a while you know we're big fans of Clemson blog Shakin' The Southland as they consistently churn out some of the best football content in the blogosphere. We did a little Q&A with them this week & appreciate their time & insights. You can find our answers to their questions here.
1) When looking at the game Saturday, most Tech fans would give you guys the edge in talent & Tech the edge in coaching. Fair assessment? What's your take on Dabo & the program in year two?
I definitely think this is a fair assessment. You guys have been out a few scholarships over the past few years which was unfortunate and definitely hurt GT. I will say that the raw recruiting numbers echo this fact. While these recruiting rankings may not the end-all-be-all numbers, I will reference them in saying that Clemson has done better on the recruiting trail than GT. The fact that Tech has a significant winning streak against the Tigers AND that Tech won last year’s ACCCG over Clemson with (especially with less highly ranked recruiting classes) shows that Clemson has been out-coached when playing the Jackets.
Dabo last season was about what I expected. We were able to improve and seemed to become more mature as a team and a coaching staff as the season progressed. This year we are seeing many of the same issues that we had last season with less adjustments. Clemson’s offense has (other than at Auburn) been extremely inconsistent with questionable play calling at times. Our defense has not been too bad statistically but has been out of position at times and has given up big plays in inopportune game situations. All of these things are reflective of the head coach. Probably the most disappointing thing I have seen this season is the apparent lack of physicality. We played hard and tough at Auburn but have been flat for a good bit of the season. Overall Dabo is still a young coach and will make mistakes. I would like for him to be further along but will give him the benefit of the doubt through this season. There will need to be some major adjustments to this program if we are to win big and those will have to be made after the season’s end.
2) Andre Ellington is a special player. At least from what we've seen. Why doesn't he get the ball more? Are we off base in saying that while Harper is good, Ellington has the potential to be great? What gives with the play calling?
I have no clue why he doesn’t touch the ball more. He is the best back on the football team as he is the only back with significant carries who knows how to run the ball effectively. We have been screaming for him to get more carries all year. I think that Clemson’s issue with the play calling stems from different philosophies between the offensive coordinator (Billy Napier) and the head coach. Napier is more of an “I” formation guy and Swinney has an affection for trying to throw the ball more. I think that Swinney has been meddling in the play calling a bit this year and has created inconsistencies with the play allying. Again, there is no excuse for Clemson not running the ball more, specifically there is no excuse for the Tigers not running Ellington more.
3) What's Clemson's offensive identity this season? How do you see then attacking our new 3-4 defense?
Another good question that I really wish I could answer. We have struggled throwing the football, catching the ball, and have not given our best back (Andre Ellington) enough carries to date. Our play calling is inconsistent and we seem to shy away from things that are successful, get too cute in critical situations (ie, running reverse passes and other “trick plays” when we finally move the ball) and do not have a definitive playmaker. Our passing game has been marred by inaccuracy from Kyle Parker (UNC first half is a great example) and dropped passes (pick your game). We have not committed to running to our strengths: we have a pretty dang good FB in Chad Diehl and won’t run power plays behind him nor will we consistently run Ellington through a lot of the zone plays that he has been so successful with the past season and a half (AE takes the ball, has great vision, one cut, then accelerates through the line of scrimmage…textbook for zone blocking runs).
Clemson will need to get to the second level and seal these linebackers. It is critical that Clemson run the ball well early and I would like to use a combination of inside/outside zone plays along with sweep plays to Ellington, especially after seeing UNC run the ball to the outside fairly well against GT. This is important because it should set up play action and allow Kyle Parker to get the ball down the field. Obviously, our pass catchers will need to do a better job of holding on the football and bring in more passes this week.
4) How will Steele opt to defend the spread option this time around? Will we see some 46 or 5-2 Monster or will he stick with his favored 4-3 Under? How would you play it?
You will probably see a lot of familiar formations out of Steele this week including the 4-3 under. Steele will probably, I would guess, stick with base formations. He had no success adjusting the DE’s responsibilities in the ACCCG (switching and having them take pitch responsibility) and I sincerely hope he has learned his lesson.
We at STS have talked about a wide variety of fronts and think we will have the best chance at stopping Tech’s option attack with a Bear front. This strategy covers both guards and the center, effectively (hopefully) taking away inside runs on qb keepers (midline option) and the staple of this offense, the dive play.
While alignment puts you in a better position to defend this offense, there is no substitution for scheme and execution. If Clemson cannot take away the dive and cannot play good fundamental defense, we will again fail against this offense. Good fundamentals involve utilizing your ends as your force guys. These guys have to put a hat on Nesbitt every time he gets outside the tackle and they cannot try to do too much.
Beating a good option team involves a total team effort, which is what you need out of your olb’s and corners. These guys have to get off of blocks and make plays on the pitch-back every play. Even if he doesn’t get the ball, you have to hit him and when he does get the pitch, it is important that you maintain containment and tackle well in the open field.
5) Who's the one guy you can count on to make a play for the Tigers? Conversely, who's the guy that when you see him with the ball coming his way, either on offense or defense, you say,"oh, shit, this is not gonna be good...?"
Andre Ellington is probably the biggest threat, as he is an excellent running back and took a kick to the house last week. Dwayne Allen is Clemson’s most dependable pass catching threat, so if we are throwing the ball I would like to see it go his way.
When Jamie Harper lines up in the backfield it looks more like a “Dancing with the Stars” special. Harper, a big guy, tip toes to the LOS and does not look comfortable running the ball. Catching the ball, Harper has done well, but taking a handoff has been a completely different story this year.
6) Is the Tiger really named "Eight Ball" and how strung out is he? Be honest....
I have only heard him referred to as the “Tiger” but he has done a load of pushups during some of our better days
7) Three keys for Clemson to beat Tech?
a. Shut down Tech’s running game between the tackles.
b. Hit Nesbitt every time he runs the option.
c. Establish Ellington early and often.
8) Three keys for Tech to beat Clemson?
a. Take advantage of Clemson’s habit of getting out of position on defense.
b. Pressure Clemson when the Tigers do try to throw the ball.
c. Commit to stopping Clemson’s running game and make the Tigers one dimensional.
To abide...To be aficionados. To not only enjoy, but to understand, Georgia Tech football, the ACC, and College Football, in that order. The trained palate perceives more, and thus enjoys more, than the ignorant palate.
Hash Slinger & Frank Lloyd Wrong are two ardent Georgia Tech fans, hedonists, & men of questionable virtue. They live in Atlanta & their work can be found not only on this blog but also in prison cells & bathroom walls throughout our fine nation. Much like The Dude, who they greatly admire, Hash & Frank abide....