Defusing Clemson’s Explosive Offense

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Tech’s defensive line will play a huge role against Clemson’s read option. (Photo by Don Montague)

Clemson’s rise as an elite program has been elevated thanks to their explosive, high-tempo spread offense under head coach Dabo Swinney. It’s an offense that’s expected to be ranked as one of the nation’s top-15 offenses. They’ve had the luxury of big-time quarterbacks over the years, in Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson. Those guys knew how to run their system like a well-oiled machine. This season, junior quarterback Kelly Bryant has been named to lead the Tigers’ offense. In his first four games, he’s led his team to four straight victories, along with two impressive wins against quality ranked opponents. Yet he still has a lot to prove.

After watching Bryant run the offense this season, he still seems to rely more on his legs than his arm. That was evident last week when he faced the Boston College defense. Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott admitted so himself by saying, “[Bryant] didn’t want to force some things, but there were also some situations where he needs to trust it and let the ball go and let his receivers go work for it.”

Boston College was able to limit the Clemson running game for at least three quarters. Doing so took Clemson out of rhythm on offense, and drives constantly sputtered. The Eagles’ defense had a game plan that may have exposed the Tigers’ weakness…a game plan that Auburn’s defense may have introduced a few weeks earlier. Let’s break down some of those schemes that were used to slow down that explosive offense.

Shut Down the “Zone Read” Running Game

Clemson’s offense runs a “zone read”