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Shift in philosophy?

Posted by cuorange on January 15, 2010

Below are the often mentioned statistics for what happened in the first 5 games of the season vs. what happened over the last 9 games.

To cut to the chase:

*Clemson threw the ball almost as much in last nine games as they did in the first 5 – 44.8% in the first 5 games, 43.5% in the last 9 games.

Run/Pass ratio:

Games Runs Pct Runs Passes Pct Passes
Games 1-5 195 55.2% 158 44.8%
Games 6-14 301 56.5% 232 43.5%

*The number of attempts were lower because Clemson averaged 12 less offensive plays per game over the last 9 games of the season than in the first 5 – 71 in the first 5 and 59 in the last 9.

*There was a shift in the targets that might be significant. In the first 5 games the WRs were targeted 54.4% of the time. In the last 9 games the WRs were targeted 42.7% of the time.  On the other hand a 12% difference really means one of every 8 passes went to a TE/RB instead of a WR.  Is that really significant?  Meaning in the first 5 games 4 of 8 (rounded) passes went to the WRs.  In games 9-14 3 of 8 (more or less) passes went to the WR.  Significant or not?

First five games:

Game WR TE/RB INT UNK TOTAL
MTSU 14 6 1 0 21
Georgia Tech 18 12 2 0 32
Boston College 17 9 2 0 28
TCU 17 20 0 0 37
Maryland 20 15 1 4 40
Totals 86 62 6 4 158
Pct of Passes 54.4% 39.2% 3.8% 2.5% 100.0%

Games 6-14:

Game WR TE/RB INT UNK TOTAL
Wake 12 12 0 0 24
Miami 12 24 1 0 37
Coastal 11 10 2 0 23
FSU 16 13 1 0 30
NCSU 9 10 0 0 19
UVA 11 15 0 0 26
SC 18 23 1 0 42
Georgia Tech 6 8 2 1 17
Kentucky 4 10 0 0 14
Totals 99 125 7 1 232
Pct of Passes 42.7% 53.9% 3.0% 0.4% 100.0%

So, with that said do I think we can definitively say there was a change in philosophy after the Wake game to keep “Dabo’s hands off the offense” and move to a power running game? No. Sure, they moved away from targeting “Dabo’s guys” (WRs). But, there was a very small increase in the percentage of runs. Hardly “proof”.

There were plenty of dropped balls by the WRs, but there were also plenty of missed throws by Kyle Parker, too. Perhaps the staff decided to keep the throws shorter (i.e. TE’s and RBs) vs. downfield to avoid the chances of turnovers. Is a short passing game a part of a power running offense – sure. And you could argue that this shift from WRs to TE/RBs show that there was a fundamental change at this point. But a short passing game is also part of the spread offense – see the numerous short throws by Colt McCoy for example in the Texas spread offense.

The key to me would be the alignment. How many TEs were used and what formations were we in during those last 9 games? More double (or triple) TE would point toward a power running philosophy, while the same (or similar) sets, but throwing to the TE and/or RBs more often would suggest to me a) you have a young QB b) your WR haven’t developed and c) your coaching staff made good adjustments during the off week, it worked so you kept doing it (a sign of good coaching).

I haven’t been able to find the final participation chart, which would give me a great indication of how many times some combination of Palmer, Allen, Taylor and Diehl (and Barry) were on the field together, but my recollection is that is was very few plays.

Another key to me would be game situations. It’s easy to look at numbers on a page and think you know what happened and why. But Clemson was all over the place in running and passing due to the situation presented in each game. Examples?

MTSU = blowout = 21 passes.

Wake = game under control = 24 passes.

Miami = wild OT game = 37 passes.

SC = behind all day = 42 passes.

GTech(1) – way behind early = 32 passes.

GTech(2) = close game all the way, CJ running wild = 17 passes.

Kentucky = close game, need to eat clock at end = 14 passes.

Even after the so-called change in philosophy after the MD game we threw the ball a lot when the game dictated we do so (37 times against Miami, 42 against SC, 30 against FSU, for example).

I’m no expert, but what all this (similar % of runs, not a heavy use of multiple TEs, wide variety in number of passes in different games) suggests to me is that the formations and philosophy didn’t change all that much, but what did change is the coaches found out that Palmer can catch the ball and Parker could throw it to him relatively accurately (I seem to recall Palmer diving, falling backwards, jumping, etc quite often though) and the WRs had a not so great year (other than Ford). Basically, without having a chart of the down and distance, game situation, and formations there is no “scientific” way to tell from the data I have available.

Perhaps a better way to look at this would be to see what happened on 1st and 10s (a good gauge of philosophy, in my opinion), when the score and game time is within a certain range (i.e. it’s not a blowout and/or you aren’t trying to run the clock out).

Personally, I believe the offense will continue to evolve (as it should) and depend on the personnel we have and game situation at hand. That’s a sign of good coaching. Identities can change from year to year.

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