Tigers in Turmoil

Explaining the Struggles of the Clemson Football Team


As many of you may know, the usual dominant Clemson Tigers have been anything but that up to this point in the new season. For many Clemson fans like me it was disappointing after the Georgia loss, but it was still expected for the Tigers to bounce back and continue their dominance of the ACC.  They went on to beat Georgia Tech in a horrible offensive showing, scoring only 14 points.  They then lost to NC  State on the road in a heartbreaking overtime defeat. But as many people may wonder, why are they struggling?

Run Game

The main source of Clemson’s issues comes from the offense. To put it simply they are not scoring enough points. A decline of offense production from one season to the next has not been seen from Clemson during the Dabo Swinney era.  The main person I blame for this decline is Offensive Coordinator, Tony Elliot. In the Georgia game, Clemson rushed for only 2 yards compared to the Bulldogs 121. Despite neither team scoring an offensive touchdown, this amount of rushing production is unacceptable. Not only does Elliot not call enough run plays to control the game, but when he does it seems to always be a HB draw or another run up the middle.  Elliot has not been able to get the best out of 5 star freshman Will Shipley, who should be utilized similarly to Christian McCaffery was at Stanford. Instead, he is now injured after being forced to run up the middle play after play. Additionally, Clemson’s offense has been at its best under Swinney when they utilize the QB run. Last year DJ played great when he was allowed to use his legs. However, this season Elliot has limited the playbook to primarily only using running backs, which makes the play-calling extremely predictable. After the most recent game against Boston College, the run game has shown promise with a 100 yard performance from Kobe Pace.

Freshman RB Will Shipley

Pass Game

Once again, the main person for these issues is Tony Elliot. Many may jump to criticize the play of Sophomore QB D.J. Uiagalelei. Although it is true he is not playing to the standard which he set last year in the two games which he started, he can only do so much with the position he is being put in. A major problem with the offense is the mismanagement of Justyn Ross. Coming off an injury which kept Ross from playing the entirety of the previous season. Ross had an incredible freshman season playing as a wideout; however, this season he has lined up in  the slot for the majority if the season. This simply is just ignorant from Elliot as he has limited the ability for Ross to fully utilize his skill set. Now speaking on DJ’s play, I will admit that he has been fairly poor this season. One main criticism has been his footwork. He has been very flat-footed which has led to his underthrowing many of his receivers. Another issue I have seen has been his throw power and how he has been unable to decide when to throw it hard. Often times he throws a bullet when a pass with more loft is necessary. But, I would argue that some of his struggles have come from below average play-calling.  While watching the games, it is frustrating to see every WR run a short route every play. It almost seems like Elliot does not fully trust DJ to use the complete playbook.


So far this season Clemson has been plagued with injuries on both sides of the ball. As I mentioned before, freshman running back, Will Shipley suffered a knee injury which will keep the rising star out for the foreseeable future. Another knee injury came at the expense of Star Defensive-tackle, Bryan Bresee, who suffered a torn ACL  against NC State. Although the defense has continued to play well, it was sad to see such a promising talent be sidelined for the season, while he was having a breakout year. Those two may be the most notable, but many other important players have been injured during the first few games of the season.

Although it is evident that Clemson will not continue their impressive streak of attending the College Football Playoff, I still hold optimism for this season and Clemson’s future. Coming off a bye week, one can hope that some of the issues plaguing this team have been addressed. I just hope every South Carolina fan knows what will happen at Williams-Brice on November 27…