Elliott Wants Tigers to 'Stay Ahead of Chains' in 2019

by Austin Silvey @SilveyESP

Clemson Co-OC, Tony Elliott, before Syracuse game in 2018 // Photo by Austin Silvey

In his media availability on Monday, Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott addressed an array of questions.


Everything from which players have stood out in spring practice, who was in line to step into the No. 1 slot role with Amari Rodgers sidelined, Derion Kendrick updates, what his 'spring wish-list' is for the team and more.


One thing Elliott said stood out to me more than everything else.

"We're gonna really challenge these guys to make sure they stay ahead of the chains and not just try to live on the explosive play."

"We've been very explosive throughout the course of scrimmages. Not quite as efficient as we've been in the past. We're gonna really challenge these guys to make sure they stay ahead of the chains and not just try to live on the explosive play. Whereas last year we were just trying to figure out how can we generate the explosive play."


Throughout the entirety of the 2018 season, I charted every first down play that the Tigers ran. I tabled yards per play, touchdowns scored, negative plays (yardage lost), turnovers, and explosive plays (10+ yards gained). I did not include plays called back by penalties or kneel downs.


Below is a graphic of the season's results...

On first down plays in 2018, Clemson averaged 7.64 yards per play -- meaning they essentially averaged around 2.4 yards to gain per second down play. By most standards, that's staying well ahead of the chains.


However, this doesn't nullify the validity of what Tony Elliott said.

"It's a little different group. Their chemistry is starting to come together but we're still a long way from where we need to be."

While the offense does return the majority of it's critical skill position players, they still have to replace a couple of cornerstone guys as well. There is no Mitch Hyatt at left tackle, no sure-handed Hunter Renfrow to bail them out on third downs, and no Amari Rodgers due to a torn ACL earlier this spring.


This team will have to find some new ways to move the ball consistently without relying on the explosive plays and without some key veteran players as well. When you have guys like Etienne, Lawrence, Ross, Higgins and Dixon, not to mention a couple of star freshmen, explosive plays will be plenty.


But at some point during a long season they will be faced with the challenge of having to move the ball at a "less explosive" rate. Finding consistent ways to stay ahead of the chains will be a necessity, and it is something that the Tigers are well-equipped to do.

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