Clemson Tiger Football: What Were Napier and Steele Thinking?

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Clemson Tiger Football: What Were Napier and Steele Thinking?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Clemson Tigers came into this weekend's game against the South Carolina Gamecocks with confidence and a six-game winning streak. 

But after being embarrassed by their arch rivals 34-17, the Tigers and their fans are looking for answers. 

The Tigers were outplayed and out-coached by the Gamecocks.

Plain and simple, the Gamecocks were better. 

 

Spiller's number of touches were low, but Harper? Really?

Heisman hopeful C.J. Spiller touched the ball 12 times out of 61 total offensive plays.

There were reports that Spiller was sick after his opening 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, but that doesn't excuse offensive coordinator Billy Napier for giving the nod to backup running back Jamie Harper in the game's first drive. 

Harper fumbled as the Tigers were driving, and the momentum shifted to the Gamecocks for the rest of the game.

I am not sure about other Tiger fans, but ever since he fumbled in his first carry as a true freshman against Alabama, I hold my breath every time Harper gets to tote the rock. 

Andre Ellington is the best option behind Spiller.  It is as obvious as the quarterback situation, where Kyle Parker is head and shoulders better than his backup, Willy Korn. 

 

42 passes.  24 rushes.  Enough said.

Napier must have pulled out the game-plan that he used against the Maryland Terrapins, because he completely abandoned the run.

The Gamecocks were sliding guys up to the line to contain the running game, but that doesn't mean you completely abandon the run—especially with a red-shirt freshman as your quarterback.

Spiller and Co. had some trouble getting traction early in the game, but that doesn't mean you abandon the run and try to pass against the No. 11 passing defense in the nation. 

All Napier had to do is look at the previous three games the Gamecocks played—all losses.

  • Tennessee—40 rushes, 24 passes
  • Arkansas—36 rushes, 27 passes
  • Florida—39 rushes, 25 passes

One might say that success allows a team to run more than pass.  However, Arkansas and even mighty Florida with Tim Tebow only averaged 2.1 and 3.6 yards/rush, respectively.

Obviously the offense turned the ball over numerous times, but I believe sticking with the run would have at least allowed the Tigers to make a game of it at the end, and definitely would have kept South Carolina's front four from teeing off on Kyle Parker.

 

Kyle Parker and the offensive line looked like they did early in the season

Besides a lack of running game, the protection scheme was pretty bad for Parker.

Napier left the young quarterback on an island without an extra blocker, and Parker was running for his life for most of the game.

The Tigers offensive line was man-handled, and Parker was back-peddling like he did against TCU and other games early in the season.

Some fans were calling for screens, but screens typically work when teams are blitzing.  The Gamecocks were getting pressure with their front four.

Besides trying to establish the run, Napier could have used shorter drops and quicker passes, but instead decided to take a page from ex-offensive coordinator Rob Spence.  Bubble screen after bubble screen was blown up, and the Tigers never got anything going.  

Parker was also very inefficient on third-down, which he has excelled at for much of the year.  Maybe Napier needs to come up with some new wrinkles because teams are obviously keying on tight end Michael Palmer as Parker's go-to guy. 

But again, it goes back to the running game.  South Carolina didn't respect the run, and therefore didn't respect play action, which has been there all season for the Tigers.

 

The Tigers defense still have no answer for the quarterback read option

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and his defense finally had a bad game.

Since the last two drives by Georgia Tech 's quarterback Josh Nesbitt against the Tigers in September, teams have exploited the heart of the Tigers defense with the quarterback read option—and Steele has still not come up with an answer for it.

The offense didn't exactly help the defense out with its turnovers and poor execution, but the Gamecock's Stephen Garcia extended drives with his legs, just like every other team that has a mobile quarterback.

With all due respect, how could Steele not have his team prepared for it?  Every team that has tried it has been successful.

The Tigers defense, led by Steele, are the main reason the Tigers are playing in the ACC Championship game.  The defense is what has kept the Tigers in games that would have gotten away from them in years past.

But don't be surprised when you see Nesbitt running wildly through the first and second levels of the Tigers defense this Saturday. If Steele doesn't come up with something to defend it, it will be a long night for the Tigers.

 

It's all about the ACCCG

For the next year, Tiger fans will have to listen to Gamecock fans, who like cicadas, only get to come out so many years.   Let them chirp.  Their team deserved it.

The Tigers goal is to win the ACC Championship and get to the BCS game in the Orange Bowl. 

I believe this is possible, but the only way they achieve these goals is if Napier and Steele put together a solid game plan on both sides of the ball.    

 

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