Coaches always say that they never really know about their teams until they get into games.
With no preseason exhibitions and limited scrimmaging, there are going to be areas of a football team that take time to develop. And Clemson's staff knew this going into the season. After all, there were only two players starting in the exact same positions as there were on the depth chart in the final game last season.
That's a lot of new, but even offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and company believed the Tigers would have more functional depth after playing just the five starters in last Saturday's 14-8 win over Georgia Tech.
"We had a lot of hope coming out of camp that was going to be the situation," Elliott said. "But currently, it is what it is."
What it is is hard to play with so far this season. The No. 9 Tigers have had a surprising lack of offensive success, ranking last in the ACC in yards per game and yards per play. There are various reasons for the struggles, but there's plenty of film of linemen missing blocks or looking lost on run plays.
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The Clemson men’s and women’s basketball teams will host a preseason tipoff event, Friday, Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m. at Bowman Field on the campus of Clemson University. The event starts at 5:30 and will last one hour and admission is FREE!
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And Clemson never tried anyone beyond center Matt Bockhorst, guards Will Putnam and Marcus Tate and tackles Jordan McFadden and Walker Parks.
"The guys are working hard," Elliott said. "It's just taking a little bit of time for the cohesion and chemistry to come together. In the past, we've had it come together quickly. This is taking a little bit more time. As coaches, we have to do a good job of just trying to help them week in and week out as they try to find their cohesion."
It's one of those areas that coaches just weren't sure about, but they preached during the preseason about more depth than they had a year ago when the O-line also had consistency issues.
Health played a role in that in 2020. This year, the Tigers lost freshman Dietrick Pennington for the season before it really got going, and they were hoping he would develop a role. Veteran Mason Trotter hasn't played a ton in his career, but the center/guard is still working his way back from a broken hand.
Still, head coach Dabo Swinney says he wished they had played Hunter Rayburn, Mitchell Mayes and Paul Tchio last Saturday, and he hopes to do that this week at N.C. State. Tate was overwhelmed at times by a Georgia Tech scheme that was completely different than what Clemson was expecting.
"In fairness to Marcus Tate, that's tough on a freshman," Elliott said. "You prepare all week and then get to a game and you look at something you haven't seen. We have to find more depth at that left guard position to help Tate in some situations."
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