After two seasons of a Clemson football offense that wasn’t as explosive as fans have been used to, the promise of a Garrett Riley-led unit was exciting to Tiger fans, even if they weren’t sure what to expect.
Many automatically thought the high-flying offense from 2022 TCU and Max Duggan’s rise to Heisman contender would translate to Clemson.
In that sense, and many others, Monday night was a dud and the Tigers began this new era the same way the last couple of years have ended – Will Shipley up the middle, Will Shipley left, Will Shipley right, pass to Will Shipley.
I love Will Shipley, but this isn’t how college football works in 2023.
Maybe it wasn’t all D.J.’s fault.
According to PFF.com, Cade Klubnik finished week 1 with the 90th-best passer rating for quarterbacks with 20 or more dropbacks.
That should be concerning with Florida State and Notre Dame among others ahead on the schedule.
More concerning should be how often Klubnik was pressured by the Duke defense, which was 42.6% (20) of his dropbacks.
Sometimes football isn’t that hard.
The tale of that tape is clear: When the pocket was clean Klubnik completed more than three-quarters of his passes and when pressured he was closer to a 40% completion rate.
A clean pocket netted 2.7 yards more per attempt and while that doesn’t sound like all that much, it’s very telling.
Simply put, the line has to be better and If they can’t do a better job of keeping Klubnik clean, all the quarterbacking in the world isn’t going to help.
This also helps explain the lack of deep passes that were even attempted – a grand total of three over 20 yards and none of those were complete.
Plays often have multiple options and how the play develops, the pressure being applied and which receivers are open can dictate where the quarterback goes with the ball, influencing these statistics.
But three deep shots in 43 pass attempts stand out, because after all the pocket was clean 27 times.
Meanwhile, 13 of Klubnik’s 43 pass attempts were behind the line of scrimmage.
It seems clear the coaches are avoiding deep shots that made the Tigers so dangerous during the National Championship runs.
There could be several reasons for this and it’s likely a combination of several.
It starts with the line play and the coaches trusting the line to give Klubnik time to throw.
If Klubnik feels pressure he’s going to hurry a pass or take off.
What we saw Monday was concerning if you were hoping for something different from the Clemson offense in 2023.
Every year we hear about the offensive line in camp. The coaches feel good about the group (what else are they supposed to say?), everyone is cross-trained, everyone is healthy (this year) and then the season begins and the same problems present themselves, seemingly year after year.
The next two weeks shouldn’t tell us a lot about the offensive line because of the level of competition, but this group needs to be ready when the Seminoles roll into Death Valley or it could get ugly and not in a good way.