The Clemson offense is looking to turn a corner coming out of their bye week. They are in unfamiliar territory being unranked and sitting at 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the ACC. The numbers have not been good through five games. The Tigers travel to Syracuse for a Friday night affair and will look to get things on track. Tony Elliot’s group needs to find its identity as the second half of the season. There is plenty of talent on Clemson’s offense, now this staff just needs to find the best ways to get them producing at a high level.
The Clemson Offense Looks to Step Up After Bye Week
The extra week of practice allows a team to take a step back and review the good and bad they’ve shown on the field. The Tigers are hoping to find more good things as the season progresses. Syracuse should provide a tough test for the improvement of the Clemson offense. The Orange are only allowing 24 points and just under 310 yards a game. Dino Babers’ team is also run heavy when they have the ball, so they will look to limit the number of opportunities the Tigers have with the ball. Elliot’s offense has opened each of the last two contests with touchdown drives. They will need to find a way to sustain that success moving forward.
Along the Line
The offensive line has struggled this season. That can derail any positives because of how crucial controlling the line of scrimmage is in football. To their credit, the run game has looked better each week, with the Tigers racking up 231 yards on the ground against Boston College. Clemson needs to lean on the run game a little more moving forward, with Kobe Pace emerging as a highly productive back. The pass protection hasn’t been good enough. However, an improving run game can help that by simply tiring out pass rushers on the opposing side. Leaning on defenses with the rushing attack will wear defenses out and hamper their ability to attack in passing situations.
For the first time in over a decade, the Clemson offense is without a true slot receiver. There is no Amari Rodgers, Hunter Renfrow, or Adam Humphries. While none of those guys were the stars when they played, their contributions can’t be overlooked. They provided a consistent and reliable option for their respective quarterbacks to find in tough situations. Usually, those guys’ catches resulted in moving the chains. The 2021 Tigers don’t have that. Justyn Ross has played a lot in the slot this season. While he has done well, playing him there takes away his big-play ability on the outside. The Tigers have a plethora of big bodies, long frame wideouts. They lack the smaller shifty playmaker with a knack for getting open at critical times.
Ross playing in the more in the slot is also an issue because no one is stepping up on the outside to replace his big play ability. Joseph Ngata is having a solid first half of the season. Aside from him and Ross, no other Tiger has more than six catches. Someone from the group consisting of Frank Ladsen Jr., E.J. Williams, and the Collins brothers needs to step forward.
Use the Field
Elliot has also come under fire for his play calling. It has grown more conservative than what we’ve grown accustomed to from the Clemson offense. The Tigers are not attacking downfield nearly enough. They are also not attacking the middle of the field very often. Some of that is due to the lack of a true slot receiver, but they have also not gotten enough out of the tight end position. Braden Galloway and Davis Allen have combined for just 10 catches and 60 yards through five games.
D.J. Uiagalelei has struggled this season. Some of it is due to the poor pass protection, but some of it is on the quarterback. His accuracy has been off, and he hasn’t had the same confidence and command he showed in his two starts a season ago. The conservative approach has leaked into his play as well, with the sophomore averaging only five yards per attempt. The Clemson offense needs to create more big plays, and that starts with the signal-caller. Uiagalelei has the talent, now he needs to start performing and producing at a higher level.