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Summer Scheming ‘22: Clemson Tigers, Nov. 19

The ‘Canes head to Clemson, SC for a shot at the Tigers in Death Valley.

Cheez-It Bowl - Clemson v Iowa State Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes will head to Clemson, SC to face the Tigers on Saturday, November 19th. Miami and Clemson share a 6-6 split with no ties over their history. Clemson has a three game win streak over the ‘Canes, although Miami won the 1945 inaugural matchup in a 7-6 barnburner. Over the last three matchups, Miami has lost by a combined score of 138 to 20.

Info: Miami @ Clemson (Clemson, SC)

Day/Time/Channel: Nov. 19, 2022 / TBA / TBA

Dabo Swinney’s story and history has been documented enough times that I don’t feel the need to say much other than the man has two National Championship rings in his trophy case, and has been so successful for so long at Clemson that at 10-3 with a top 20 ranking was dubbed a ‘bad year’ for the Tigers.

However, for the first time as the Tigers full-time head coach, Swinney is replacing both coordinators. Former OC Tony Elliott is now the head coach at Virginia, while former DC Brent Venables is now the head coach at Oklahoma.

Dabo has replaced coordinators before- Kevin Steele was replaced by Venables, and Billy Napier (now the head coach at Florida) gave way to Chad Morris (left for SMU, then Arkansas) who gave way to the duo of Jeff Scott (USF head coach) and Tony Elliot who gave way to just Tony as the OC by himself.

The Dabo Tree has seen some big time jobs branch off for his former coordinators. The question is whether Swinney will have the same success with Brandon Streeter at OC as with prior OC’s, and with the duo of Wes Goodwin and Mickey Conn at DC as with Coach Venables. Conn was a teammate of Swinney’s at Alabama and is a former high school head coch, while Goodwin is a former Clemson GA

2021 Record: 10-3 (6-2 in the ACC)

Bowl Game: Cheez-It Bowl win over Iowa State.

“I remember that guy!”

Today’s throwback player is former Clemson QB Woodrow “Woody” Dantzler. Dantzler holds 50 Clemson football records, was an All-ACC pick in 2001, and was the first QB in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards. The five-foot-ten Dantzler flashed with his dual threat capabilities long before that was a trendy pick behind center.

Over our seasons at Clemson (1998-2001), Dantzler threw for over 5600 yards with 36 TD’s and 27 more rushing TD’s to boot. Dantzler wasn’t Tommy Bowden’s first dual threat QB, having coached Shaun King at Tulane and Dameyune Craig at Auburn as the OC of the Tigers.

Dantzler was a UDFA signing by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002, played for the Falcons in 2003, the Frankfurt Galaxy of the NFL Europe league and the Cowboys in 2005, and the Chicago Rush of the AFL in 2006 and 2007. Dantzler was in the AAFL and two IFL (Indoor) teams before retiring in 2010. Over his career, Dantzler scored two NFL TD’s and five AFL TD’s.

Data & Personnel

Clemson heads into the 2022 season as the SP+ projected 6th best team in FBS football.

SP+ Projection Overall: 6 (Miami 14)

SP+ Proj. Offense: 39 (Miami 21)

SP+ Proj. Defense: 2 (Miami 23)

The Athlon preseason ACC All-Conference team has seven Tigers on the first teams. On the first team offense is running back Will Shipley. Shipley is also on the third team as a kick returner. In ‘21, Shipley rushed for 739 yards and 11 TD’s on five yards per carry. As a KR, Shipley averaged 27 yards per return.

On the first team defense you have three Clemson defensive linemen, a linebacker and a safety. Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee, and Tyler Davis are on the D-Line. Murphy picked up 14.5 TFL’s and eight sacks last year. Bresse and Davis combined to total 4.5 TFL’s and three sacks in ‘21.

Trenton Simpson is the LB, while Andrew Mukuba is the safety. Simpson, an impressive player, logged 12.5 TFL’s and 6.5 sacks last season. Mukuba had seven PBU’s last year with two TFL’s of his own.

The Tigers even have a placekicker in B.T. Potter on the first team specialists. Potter nailed 21 of 26 field goals and was perfect on 38 PAT attempts.

Clemson has another defensive lineman, this time on the second team defense, named Xavier Thomas. Thomas had 6.5 TFL’s and 4.5 sacks last season and easily could be switched around to the first team.

On the fourth team, the Tigers have WR Beaux Collins, TE Davis Allen, and OL Walker Parks. Collins averaged 13.1 yards per catch with three TD’s last year while Allen caught three TD’s of his own.

Tigers Scheme on O

2021’s starting quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, returns after averaging only six yards per attempt with 10 interceptions and only nine TD passes a year ago. He ran another four TD’s but admitted he was heavier than he would have ever wanted to be by the Cheez-It Bowl (we’re in no way blaming Cheez-Its for any weight gain).

Under Elliott, Clemson stayed in a traditional offense most of the time. I’m assuming this is now a Clemson offense and the Tigers will stick to 11 personnel (one back, one tight end) like they have in the past. Of course, in the wings is five-star freshman Cade Klubnik in a Kelly Bryan slash Trevor Lawrence standoff with DJ.

For the Tigers, I’m going to use the spring game for the offense.

Above- It looks like 4-Verts with the #1 threat to the top of the screen sitting down in space. Usually I have that guy break out in case the inside receiver also sits down, you’d want to keep them away from each other.

Above- Hit your check downs, boys. RB on the chip release, no one comes on pressure, find some open space. Backs are lost in the coverage shuffle all the time. Nice, easy, safe yardage.

Above- Clemson has ran speed option in this thing multiple times, they use it here for a quick first down. If you know the defense likes inside pressure, speed option is a quick and simple solution to getting to the edge for 2-3 yards a pop.

Above- Sometimes you have to let it rip on the rhythm (last step) of your initial drop. You have to put it in a good spot and hope your guy can make a play on the ball.

Tigers Scheme on D

Clemson runs every damn thing under the sun. Maybe they won’t continue to be that way, but if the spring game was any indication they’ll run just as many fronts, looks, twists, blitzes, and coverages as ever before. Let the game planning nightmares begin.

Clemson ran out one of the most varied and aggressive defenses I’ve ever seen in a spring game. Their new DC duo decided to get their reps in as play-callers, which I love! We’ll use the Pitt game All-22 from ‘21 to focus on defense.

Above- Pitt shifted and Clemson got the defense to flip quickly. This is almost a 4-3 look with the MLB at four yards as he’s flanked by guys in 40’s (over the OT, off the ball) at 5y deep.

Above- After a penalty on the same drive, Clemson is in an odd front for 3rd and long. Expect the Tigers to keep three of the four potential All-ACC DL on the field at the same time. They’ll be tough to stop with Simpson also providing pressure.

Let’s break these Clemson clips into 3 categories: Things that can work, things Clemson does well, and things Pitt did that worked against Clemson.

Things that can work, but didn’t

Pitt dialed up a RB screen a few times during the game, and I’m not sure if they thought it would work as much as they just needed it to be in the back of the minds of Clemson pass rushers.

Above- Screen to the RB wasn’t a big time gain for Pitt, but it can slow down the pass rush and do its job that way. Keep their OODA Loop being interrupted, and yours looping smoothly.

Above- Finding holes in the all out pressures. Every pass concept needs a ‘hot’ route aka a rush route (R4, baby!). When pressure shows you have to have somewhere to dump the ball. Too many OC’s have one route calls with jog outs (Baylor effect) and live and die by the pass interference or throw away.

Things Clemson does well

Clemson has been great at a lot of things under Dabo Swinney. They have a program culture that centers around finding the best fit for the locker room. They play great defense under Swinney and more importantly under now Oklahoma HC Brent Venables. Again, don’t expect much to change on defense- both new DC’s understand the Clemson Way on defense.

Above- I mean, they’re Clemson, they do a lot of stuff well...

Above- Clemson tackles really well. They missed a few against Pitt and tackles get missed, but you can see the work that’s gone into teaching not just technique in solo shots but also vice tackles.

Above- Bringing pressure from different places and people.

Above- Finding massive, and uber quick defensive linemen that can rush, drop, move laterally and handle the twists and stunts the defense uses.

Things that worked vs. Clemson

Bouncing every run outside will not be an option for Miami vs. Clemson. That works against slower, lesser opponents like FCS schools and some G5’s (not all, however). Hell, it even works against Duke and other P5’s that haven’t recruited in the top-50.

But once you’re facing Clemson, Texas A&M, and even UNC- that might not work as well.

Above- Pitt ripped off a few solid runs against Clemson. What concepts did they use? Power, Split zone and a wide zone looking play. Mirabal loves wide zone so expect to see some of that in orange and green. I can’t see Cristobal not wanting to run power or split zone, as well. But it’s going to take patience from the backs in order to make those three concepts work.

Above- Last but not least, the passes that worked for Pitt vs. Clemson. Pitt landed on some other things but I can see this sprint out smash working vs Clemson and their aggressive DL + penchant for going cover 1 or 0 when they send the house. I can also see finding little holes using routes like sit (above) or stick (talked about a ton on SOTU).

For all of the butt kissing I’ve done re the Tigers defense above, they aren’t perfect. They were smoked on shoulder shakes and that smash concept. They missed key tackles and over ran plays. Their defense also had Kenny Pickett dead to rights on big sacks but rushed the inside hip versus the outside hip (above) and gave up a sack for an incomplete pass.

Canyonero keys to victory

1- Block some bodeee. The rallying cry of idiot fans and Uncle Roscoe’s everywhere. The top job is to block some body for the Miami O-Line. This is another top rated Clemson front six and Miami’s weakness has been OL play the past three meetings.

2- Get pressure on the QB. Whoever Clemson’s QB is by November, it doesn’t matter (to quote The Rock), get some damn pressure on the guy. Mario Cristobal has hit the portal hard to find a defensive line and guys like Jahfari Harvey and Thomas Davis need to live up to their pass rush potential.

3- Don’t make the stupid mistakes. Clemson is well coached, I don’t care who the coordinators are. Swinney insulates and hires from within while also keeping players on campus and not using the portal. The culture is his all the way. One thing Miami can’t afford to do is turn the ball over, get penalized at a high rate, and give up easy big plays. I want to believe this is The New-New Miami, but it’s a ‘wait and see’ approach by this jabroni fan.

Way too early prediction: Clemson by 13.