With the 2020 season now in the rearview mirror, we can now begin to look ahead to the 2021 season and the issues that need to be fixed if the Tigers are again to find their way back to the College Football Playoff, and ultimately a national championship.
Finding a replacement for Elliott: While head coach Dabo Swinney was adamant that missing offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was not a big issue in the Tigers' Sugar Bowl loss, the fact was that passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter struggled to get into a rhythm calling plays once the Tigers went off-script.
Trevor Lawrence even mentioned the issues and referenced the fact it was different in his postgame press conference saying, "...it was a little different, just being on the headset as opposed to him being right there, just us communicating. But the difference it made, I really don't know. We still, I think, communicated well. But, yeah, obviously it's different with him not on the sideline, Coach E (Tony Elliott) not being there. All of those things are different. Communication-wise we were fine, but it was definitely a little bit different."
If one thing was made clear: the Tigers were not prepared for Elliott's absence. When Elliott ultimately leaves to become a head coach, which is inevitable, the Tigers had better be prepared.
The Trenches: The Tigers were dominated at times in the trenches—not only in the Sugar Bowl. The first game against Notre Dame was not a good look for the defensive line, Syracuse exposed the offensive line and the running game was a non-factor for the majority of the season.
Football games are won and lost in the trenches, and that is one area that the Tigers must improve heading into the 2021 season. Some of the issues will be fixed through recruiting, and the young players having true spring practice and offseason to get stronger, but some of it is a mentality issue. There needs to be an Eric Mac Clain, a Christian Wilkins, a Clelin Ferrell, a Jay Guillermo who can challenge the lines of scrimmage to be better.
Secondary: Swinney raved about his secondary all preseason, stating this may have been the most talented secondary he has ever had.
Well, if 2020 proved anything it is that talent does not equal quality play.
The secondary did have a few spectacular moments and breakout players—see Andrew Booth and Malcolm Greene. But they had more disappointments and frustrating players.
The secondary was exposed at times, with key players missing games for disciplinary reasons and a lack of discipline and toughness needs to be addressed. The secondary looked scared to hit people at times, with players making business decisions rather than making the plays.
In fact, the play of the secondary in the Ohio State loss drew memories of the Tigers' 2015 loss to Alabama, when members of the secondary looked to have both feet out the door before the game started—and played like it.