Mark Richards


Monday, April 07, 2003

Orange and White Game Review

I had the pleasure of going up to Clemson this weekend for the annual "Orange and White" game, a scrimmage between the Clemson offense and the Clemson defense. The game is always fun to watch because it is the this first chance to see some of the younger athletes that may have redshirted or not received a great deal of playing time the previous season. In past years, we have seen an offense dominated game, where the defense was able to stop the onslaught only a rare occasions, but this year proved to be different.

The biggest problem for the Clemson defense last year was their inability to stop the run. After a strong start, the solid rush defense waned, and the culmination of the collapse came against Wake Forest after allowing 365 yards on 64 carries. During this weekend's game, the defense appeared to have corrected many of the problems it was plagued by the previous season. Although the offense gained over 150 yards on the ground, it was held to an average of 2.2 yards per carry which is below average by any standard. If the defense can limit the number of yards gained on the ground, it will prevent our opponents from controlling the clock and pounding away at a defense that sees a lot of minutes on the field already due to our "high-powered, quick-strike" offense.

The phrase "high-powered, quick-strike" offense, should be used to reference the Clemson offense very conservatively. Last year's team was not able to control the clock due to a poor rushing game, thus leaving the defense on the field for incredible stretches during a game. Coach Bowden emphasized the short yardage running game during the spring practices, which was quite evident from the scrimmage. From what was shown on the field, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Redshirt freshmen Duane Coleman and Reggie Merriweather combined for almost 100 yards rushing, which at first glance appears to be poor production, but the majority of the yardage came on plays designed for short yardage situations and is a rather impressive feat. The young and injured offensive line from a year ago appears to have some help coming with the emergence of Dustin Fry, Roman Fry, and Nathan Bennett. Their play is extremely important to the success of the Tigers in the upcoming season. A strong offensive line will open up the running game and give the quarterback more protection and time to pass in the pocket.

The quarterback situation was a little suspect at times on Saturday. None of the 5 QB's were able to move the ball with any sort of consistency and turned the ball over four times (3 interceptions/1 fumble). It is very easy to criticize Coach Bowden, his system, and our offense for their apparent lack of production, but one must remember that when a QB only gets a few plays or one drive every twenty minutes or so due to the rotation, how is any sort of rhythm to be established? This is not something caused by any one person or scheme. It is just a fact of playing a scrimmage setup like the "Orange and White" game. Also, the game is not for the offense to prove that it can put points on the board by "airing the ball out" every play, it is to see how much improvement has been made over the past few months by the team on the key issues focused on by the coaching staff. I believe our team accomplished what it set out to do.

Team grade: B


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