Elliott looking for improvement from offensive line, offense as a whole


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson's offensive line needs to play better this season. (Photo courtesy CUAD)
Clemson's offensive line needs to play better this season. (Photo courtesy CUAD)

Clemson’s offense certainly wasn’t bad last season, but offensive coordinator Tony Elliott sees plenty of room for improvement.

The Tigers finished third nationally in scoring offense, averaging 43.5 points per game. Clemson was 10th in total offense at just over 500 yards per game and was sixth nationally in passing offense at nearly 350 yards per game. The Tigers struggled to run the ball, however, dropping all the way to 75th nationally in rushing offense at 154 yards per game.

Elliott met with the media following Wednesday’s practice and detailed areas of improvement he would like to see this spring.

"It's consistency in our footwork," Elliott said. "It really came down to fundamentals. Just the proper step at the proper time. The proper communication. Just really getting back to the details. Some third-down situations. You take short yardage, we were much better in short-yardage this year (than in 2019), but then we weren't as good in 3rd-and-3. So we have to improve in 3rd-and-3.

"We had three turnovers in the red zone, which dropped our red zone efficiency down. And the games where we weren't as productive running the ball, why? There was one game in particular, that first time vs. Notre Dame, I needed to do a better job of having some variety to help those guys in that tough situation. Just making sure we are constantly pushing the envelope but never going into a game plan without having enough.”

The offensive line was a lightning rod for criticism, and Elliott wants to see that unit take a step forward this spring.

“The depth on the offensive line, we really have to grow that up. There were really three games where we were ineffective, rushing for less than four yards per clip,” Elliott said. “The first was the first Notre Dame game, which was lack of fundamentals in crunch time and some schematic things I can do better. Boston College, they were dead set their structure was going to stop the run and we didn't quite have the threat of the QB pull (QB run in read-option) in that game plan. And then you get into the Ohio State game, we were running the ball early. And then once it got into a track meet, they were pinning their ears back and it was hard to become efficient running the football so you had to lean on the pass. Those are some areas big-picture that we need to improve."

"I feel like the guys are responding well. They are definitely gravitating to the receiver aspect of the position, which is more my expertise, than the run blocking. I'm having fun getting in there with Robbie (Caldwell) and learning all the intricate calls, hand placement, angles of your steps."

He then said that several of the younger offensive linemen are capable of taking that next step after learning on the job last season.

"Paul Tchio is a big guy, a big body that can create movement," Elliott said. "He just has to grow up and say now is the time. I think you're starting to see him make that transition. You're starting to see Mitchell Mayes-- he's been asked to do a lot and play both sides-- but now he's starting to figure it out and see his true athleticism rise to the top. Hunter Rayburn is a guy that I've been really pleased with thus far. He's a guy that has probably taken the biggest step of all those guys were are counting on there. Mason Trotter is another guy that has to take a step.

"Obviously we know what Walker Parks is capable of. Those are kind of the guys that have caught my attention right now-- John Williams, he's another one that has been thrown in the fire playing out there at tackle, and he's held his own. So you are starting to see those guys make strides, and that's what you would expect. They have been through a season and got their bearings about them."

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