2010 CFBZ Prediction: 3rd Place in ACC Atlantic
2010 Actual Finish: Tied for 4th Place in ACC Atlantic (6-7, 4-4)
When Dabo Swinney replaced Tommy Bowden during the 2008 season I'm sure that 6-7 isn't what the administration was hoping for. Especially in a year that was considered a down year for the ACC. Ultimately trying to replace C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer all in one year was just too much for the offense to handle. Clemson came ultra close to picking off Auburn early in the season (losing in OT) but then dropped the next two games to Miami (Fl) and UNC to put them in a 2-3 hole. Clemson rebounded with good wins over bowl-bound Maryland and Georgia Tech and looked like it had righted the ship and was headed to a turnaround. Unfortunately, Clemson lost 3 of their next 5 and took a 6-6 record into their bowl loss against South Florida. We caught up with Dr B of SB Nation's Clemson Blog Shakin The Southland exactly what they thought of Clemson's performance in 2010 and how they feel going into 2011.
In our Pre-Season Preview you said that Clemson needed to finish 9-3 for it to be a successful season in your eyes. The season is over and the Tigers finished 6-7. What went wrong?
Coming into this year we felt that if Clemson played to its strengths, they would end up in the 9-10 win range, particularly with what was coming back for us. Our coaching staff never played to these strengths, and we paid for it.
Lets say your team brought back 4 starters off a fair O-line, and two backs who both averaged over 5 ypc and each had over 400 yards the year before. You have no proven WRs, 1 very talented TE, and a RS Soph at QB. What would you do with that? You'd run the ball quite a bit right? Wrong, not Clemson. We threw the ball over 30 times in each loss, some over 40.
Clemson had a sensible gameplan for Auburn and we took it to them up front. Parker took a nasty late hit to the ribs and it dazed him, and while our staff said it had no effect for Miami the next week, it was quite apparent that it did. Knowing that your QB is hurting, wouldn't you gameplan to play to your strength and run a lot more? No, not Clemson. DeAndre McDaniel got his teeth knocked out on the first Miami TD and they left him in the game, and he made coverage bust after coverage bust and Miami went up big, and we abandoned the run altogether early. Despite Harris' best efforts we could not win it.
The next week they wouldn't attack a depleted UNC defense and lost. They decided to not give the football to our best back and instead throw the ball around. Same thing continued to happen over and over throughout the season, and even when we won it looked horrible. Once we lost our best back at Boston College, it was over.
Last year we were an I-formation and zone running pro-style play-action team. Hand it off to Spiller 19 times a game and then use some PA passes and we could win. This year, they ditched all that, and we hardly saw the I-formation after the first few games. When you see Clemson line up in the shotgun, we pass. When we're one-back under center, we run. Most of the time they went to the Gun, even when both backs were healthy. They claim to self-scout, but never recognized this on film, and we kept up with it all year on the site in the game reviews.
I just don't think our staff is intelligent. I know Dabo is the one that decided to scrap the power run game that became our identity last year to get the ball into his WRs hands, just because he believes it will work. Now that he finished 6-7 and everyone raised hell, he knows he has to fire people to keep his own job.
What game was the turning point of the season?
You know, this happens to us quite a bit. One game really flips the season around, and you look back and wonder "what if we won it?"
We took Auburn to the wire, and if we had snapped the ball correctly in OT on the FG attempt to tie it, and later won, who knows how our season would've gone. Who knows how Auburn would've turned out had they lost there? I tend to think momentum like that is a freaky thing with a team. If you get on a roll, sometimes you continue to play above your level and winning breeds winning. Sometimes when you prepare for a team all offseason, which we did, a loss crushes you and you don't recover.
The gameplan we had there was the one that worked last year for us. After we lost, Swinney decided to take power-running personnel and run a spread system. I think he made an impulsive decision to abandon what works just because it didn't win at Auburn.
Which player(s) was the biggest surprise of the season and on the flip-side who was the biggest disappointment?
Probably Hopkins, I rarely expect a true FR to come in and basically take the job at Flanker away from a senior, but that is what happened. He needs to add some weight but he's a tough football player.
Jamie Harper averaged over 5 ypc last year and barely cracked 4 ypc this year. He cracked 100 yards against North Texas in the first game, and then tanked. He tiptoes into holes and refuses to lower his shoulder on defenders. Now the dummy declares for the NFL? I just laugh at that.
Which player are you most excited about for next season?
Who knows with Dabo calling the shots. I think if Andre Ellington stays healthy, he gets over 1000 yards. I think if we insist on passing heavily that DeAndre Hopkins will crack 70 receptions and 1000 yards. Both of them are outstanding football players.
In what areas does Clemson need to improve the most to get back into contention for the ACC Championship?
Next year the chief concern is former 5-star QB Tajh Boyd. He showed us this year that he was not ready to play, and next year he has to be. If he gets the new offense down pat, we might be ok.
The second is the WRs. Someone besides Hopkins must show ball skills.
3rd, the defense. We lose most of it. Up front we are depleted with two starters leaving, one rumored to go, and a chief backup leaving. We lose SS Deandre McDaniel, CB Byron Maxwell and CB Marcus Gilchrist, who is also our KR/PR. Linebacker is the only spot we don't lose anyone.
And finally coaching. The defensive staff earned their paycheck. When an opponent does something, I can see the adjustments they make and they work. The offensive staff makes no adjustments and showed me they should be fired. Some of them already have been but I think Swinney is the real problem there: he fancies himself an offensive visionary, having never been an OC in his life.
So who knows...I won't make a prediction on next year. We could go 3-9 or 8-4.