After another game where Clemson’s offense struggled, Dabo Swinney defended Tigers offensive coordinator Tony Elliott on Sunday night.
The former Tigers player-turned-coach has come under fire from every side since the season opener. ESPN college football analyst and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III referred to the play-calling as “archaic” during Saturday’s Clemson-N.C. State game broadcast. The Wolfpack won 27-21 in double overtime.
The Tigers had 49 offensive plays with 214 yards of total offense, 111 of which came in the air, and went 2 of 11 on third-down conversions. They were only on the field a total of 18 minutes and 12 seconds.
“I can tell you this: There’s nobody that I believe in more, trust or respect than Tony Elliott. This guy didn’t just forget football, that’s for sure,” Swinney said. “I’m not really concerned with what other people think, to be quite honest with you. … We’ve been really, really, really good, really good offensively here for a long time — a long time, and people are quick to forget that.”
What it boils down to, Swinney explained, is a lack of execution. The Tigers are out of rhythm, missing assignments and making mental errors. Swinney shoulders the blame, saying it’s his job to make sure his squad improves. That includes on the offensive line. The Tigers started Paul Tchio at left guard against N.C. State. Hunter Rayburn also saw playing time in the contest.
“It’s just something we’re constantly evaluating and working on, trying to find the right combination and just looking for consistency,” Swinney said.
‘This group will respond,’ Dabo says
Clemson is currently 2-2 on the year, but Swinney reflected Sunday on how the program has had bad times before — just not recently. In 2009, his first full season as Clemson’s head coach, the Tigers started off the year 2-3 and still played for the ACC championship. Five years later, the team started the season 1-2 before putting together a six-game winning streak for a 10-3 final record.
“We’re 2-2, but the same type of disappointment, the same type of pain. Our best player got hurt that year,” Swinney said in reference to then-quarterback Deshaun Watson. “We’ve got several players hurt this year, but that group responded and this group will respond as well.”
Next man up
Through four weeks, Clemson has lost both of its starting defensive tackles, with Tyler Davis set to be out seven to eight weeks (bicep) and Bryan Bresee (ACL) out for the year.
Ruke Orhorhoro started in place of Davis, while Tre Williams filled in for Bresee after he left in the third quarter against N.C. State on Saturday. Orhorhoro made four tackles, while Williams had one. The silver lining is the Tigers do have depth in their defensive line with Justin Foster also helping out in the interior.
“He can do it. He’s a heavy-handed kid and smart,” Swinney said. “Really smart, so he might be an option for us, at least to give us a little depth as well as still helping us out at end.”
Will Shipley, the team’s leading rusher, was another Tiger to leave Saturday’s game with an injury, his occurring in the overtime period. It wasn’t an ACL, though he’ll be out for at least a month and on crutches for what Swinney described as an injury in the shin/tibial area.
With Lyn-J Dixon opting to transfer, the Tigers are down to four running backs in Kobe Pace, who started in the season opener, Mikey Dukes, Darien Rencher and Phil Mafah, who was originally going to be redshirted.
“This changes the course for Mafah in the immediate here,” Swinney said. “Kobe and Rench and Mafah and Mikey Dukes, so we’ve still got four talented guys and we’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
Who does Clemson play this week?
Who: Clemson vs Boston College
Where: Memorial Stadium in Clemson
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2
TV: ACC Network
Line: Clemson by 16