Aug 14, 2012

2012 ACC Previews: Clemson with Shakin The Southland

Members of the SBNation family of blogs are helping us preview the 2012 season. Today, DrB from Shakin The Southland talks Clemson football.

2011 was a banner year for the Tigers, even if most fans will get hung up on a crushing final game. Two wins over ACC power Virginia Tech highlighted a tear that saw Clemson claim its first ACC Championship since 1991.

2011 Record: 10-4

2011 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. West Virginia, 33-70

2012 Bowl Projections:

  • J.P. Palm (CBS Sports): Russell Athletic Bowl vs. USF
  • Phil Steele: Chick-Fil-A Bowl vs. Tennessee

Orlando Bowl History

1988 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Penn St., 35-10
1989 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Oklahoma, 13-6
1992 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. California, 13-37
2002 Tangerine Bowl vs. Texas Tech, 15-55
2005 Champs Sports Bowl vs. Colorado, 19-10

Q&A with DrB from Shakin the Southland

Describe the 2011 season in two words.

Small Miracle

How has last season’s Orange Bowl result painted this offseason (for fans and for the team itself)?

The most obvious change resulting from the OB was the replacement of Kevin Steele, which we called for immediately, with Brent Venables from Oklahoma. His scheme is very similar to Steele’s, but he’s spent a lot of time focusing on tackling fundamentals thus far, which was a big problem. Clearly getting your teeth kicked in after winning an ACC Championship should have instilled into the team that it must gain some sort of consistency.

The fans opinions are all over the place. Some people look at the fact that Clemson won the ACC and just went to the Orange Bowl as a huge step forward and a precursor to great things to come from Swinney and crew. They essentially ignored the result of the game and credited the overall season record/CU’s first championship in two decades as most important and the losses as minor setbacks in the grand scheme of things. These people tend to only look at the recruiting successes and ignore any problems, so when Dabo pulled in a great class they forgot all about the Orange Bowl.

The more objective fan realizes that winning the ACC is a big accomplishment but that getting curb stomped in a major bowl by another conference champion means there are many things that need to be fixed before Clemson can again become a major player on the national scene. These folks want to see more consistency on both sides of the football—particularly in the trenches and basic fundamentals. They are also less positive about this season and really are looking at the ’13 campaign as the most realistic season to win another conference crown.

The rest of the fanbase is somewhere in between…happy that Kevin Steele was replaced, pleased that Clemson won as many games as they did last season, but understanding that Clemson is not invincible can get beaten badly if they are not ready to play each and every week, yet extremely optimistic. These folks think that Clemson will use the OB as a learning experience and can replace losses from last season’s team to be as good or better this season—especially with the addition of Venables.

On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?

In conference, it is Florida State, without question. Clemson travels down to Tallahassee to face a team that is loaded with talent and predicted to make a big run this season. Assuming everyone is healthy and with them playing Wake the week prior (last season they played Oklahoma), they have tons of talent all over the place, and lack of success this season should put some heat on head football coach Jimbo Fisher.

Out of conference, South Carolina will be tough. They have improved vastly up front over the past couple years and Clemson is extremely inexperienced on both lines coming into this year. Carolina features a rushing attack and a running quarterback that could present issues for the Clemson defense. Clemson’s primary problem in the 3 straight losses to SC, the first 3-in-a-row in 30 years, has been at the line of scrimmage. If they can fix that, then this game will be very tight.

Should we expect to see more development from Chad Morris’ offense in 2012 or will the new starters along the offensive line make that kind of growth a challenge?

Chad only implemented around 2/3 to 3/4 of his offense last season, so he admittedly has more wrinkles to install, particularly after having a year to get the players acclimated to his system. However, we do not think he will install any more material than in 2011 because of the OL. He may need to get more creative to make up for issues up front. He and the offensive staff, for instance, identified short yardage situations as a weakness and spent a week in Nevada learning how to implement some new running concepts out of direct snap formations. We also spent a great deal of time revamping some of the zone blocking schemes into gap schemes. Fortunately for The Chad, his offensive system is pretty simple and blocking schemes are very similar to the old Wing-T. That concept in itself will allow Morris to make offensive adjustments while keeping things relatively simple up front.

Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.

Best case scenario is that Clemson overcomes its woes in the trenches and is able to repeat as ACC Champions. We still wouldn’t project anything better than 10 wins in the regular season. Worst case is that Clemson’s defense struggles to adjust to Venables’ defensive scheme and gets torched up front and the Tigers end up in the Belk Bowl with 7 wins.

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