In some seasons, the off week comes at a great time for college football teams. In other years, you'd rather be playing to keep the momentum going.
For Clemson, it's a little bit of both this time around. Sure, the Tigers need a chance to regroup, get healthy, work on issues and just breathe. But the offense is also coming off an improved outing, at least in terms of how the previous four games went, in a 19-13 win over Boston College.
Still, coaches never hate extra time to teach and prepare, and Clemson is focused on fundamentals before the Oct. 15 trip to Syracuse.
Here are three keywords the Tigers are working on heading into a stretch of seven regular-season games:
Injuries have been one of the biggest storylines of 2021 for Dabo Swinney's squad, especially on the defensive side of the ball. From losing Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis to a ton of bumps and bruises that need to heal, this is an important week off.
Even more so, it's a chance to develop some of the depth that's moved into larger roles. Guys like Tre Williams, Tyler Venables Etinosa Reuben and Barrett Carter are being asked to do more with other players banged up, and they need more practice reps and teaching from defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Dabo Swinney Non-Committal On Starting Quarterback for Florida State
After temporarily benching D.J. Uiagalelei during the Tigers 27-17 loss to Pitt, head coach Dabo Swinney said the coaches will use the week to evaluate before deciding who to start at quarterback against Florida State on Saturday.
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As talks continue to heat up there is a new potential suitor for the former Clemson national champion, Deshaun Watson.
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Clemson men's basketball coach Brad Brownell talked about some of the success he has had tapping into the transfer portal at the ACC Tipoff in Charlotte.
"It gives other guys an opportunity to grow up," senior safety Nolan Turner said about the injury bug. "I think it's a good way to bring this team together almost. You have guys go out. You have to have guys rally around other people and have guys step up."
While the offense and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei showed improvement last Saturday, it's still leaving much to be desired. Clemson has finished in the negative in Expected Points Added, a metric that measures how a team performs relative to expectation, in all four of its games against FBS opponents.
The Tigers have struggled with execution, penalties and turnovers, and that's led to an inability to finish scoring drives. While they cut down on some of that against BC, there are too many points being left on the field.
"We've got to finish plays," Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. "If we finish some of the plays they lead to touchdowns. I think the guys understand how to practice, how to work but we've got to strain a little harder all the way around to be able to finish the way that we're capable of."
One valid criticism of Clemson's offense this year has been the predictability of it all. Sure, executing properly combats defensive schemes that have prepared well for the Tigers, but they haven't exactly pressed the issue this year. With five games on film now, teams have an even better idea of what Clemson wants to do, on both sides fo the ball.
Clemson wants to be Clemson, obviously, but this is a good week to work on some counter plays and adjustments now that the Tigers know what others want to do to them. There's also an ongoing battle at the offensive line as the coaches are trying to find the right group. Moving Matt Bockhorst from center to guard last week helped, but they likely aren't done tinkering with that unit and the receiving corps.
"As far as what our best lineup is, we're always evaluating that," Swinney said.