Okay, before you all get upset with me, let’s take a look at some numbers.
Among 95 quarterbacks with at least 300 dropbacks last year, Cade Klubnik ranked 50th in completion percentage, 42nd in yards, 54th in touchdowns, and threw the 30th most interceptions. His average yards per attempt of 6.1 was 89th and his average depth of target of 7.0 was 91st.
Does that sound like a good quarterback? Well, the obvious counterargument is that Klubnik did not have good receivers, and Garrett Riley’s offense called for a constant barrage of short passes. So, I’ll concede that Klubnik’s receivers had the fifth most drops among that sample of quarterbacks and the 29th-highest drop rate. Klubnik was also pressured the seventh most times.
So, if Clemson isn’t changing the offensive coordinator and isn’t adding players in the transfer portal who can immediately improve the offensive line, the natural next question for me is how well did he perform on those short throws and against pressure. Because those are still going to be problems that he’ll need to elevate above, the great quarterbacks have solutions.
Well, Klubnik completed 69.6% of his throws from 0-9 yards downfield with six touchdowns and three interceptions. His adjusted completion percentage was 77.7% which factors in the 15 drops from his receivers. His completion percentage ranks him 84th among 94 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts to that part of the field, and his adjusted percentage is 74th among the sample. His 5.1 yards per attempt on those throws is 91st.
Against pressure, Klubnik finished the year with 574 passing yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions. He completed 37.8% of his passes and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt with an average depth of target of 10.7. His 4.5 yards per attempt ranked 80th out of 85 quarterbacks with at least 100 pressured dropbacks and if you want to extend the sample to include the 197 quarterbacks with at least 25 pressured dropbacks, Klubnik is 164th or eighth percentile.
Klubnik is young and talented, but there is no proof that he can succeed on Clemson’s offense and elevate it above its limitations on the offensive line and at wide receiver. There also isn’t much proof that he’s very good at all, but he should still go into the year as the starting quarterback.
However, if there isn’t massive improvement early on, then hello Christopher Vizzina, it’s your turn to be a highly-touted Clemson quarterback thrown into a limited offense with the hopes that you’ll be Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence.
Unless Dabo succumbs to the transfer portal or starts to recruit like Kirby Smart at Georgia, then Clemson will need its quarterback to be a superhero. Cade could be a quality quarterback on plenty of offenses, but he didn't come to Clemson wearing a cape.