Elliott on OL: No lineup changes in store, but younger players will earn playing time

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson's offensive line struggled at Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy ACC)
Clemson's offensive line struggled at Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy ACC)

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott told the media Monday morning that while he doesn’t expect any lineup changes on the offensive line for this week’s game at Florida State, it’s imperative that the coaches continue to push the younger players into more playing time.

Clemson’s running game hasn’t been productive this season.

The Tigers ran the ball 566 times last season for 3606 yards, an average of 6.4 yards per attempt. Travis Etienne averaged 7.80 yards per attempt last season, while Lyn-J Dixon averaged 6.11 yards per attempt.

Etienne averaged 8.13 yards per rush in 2018, while Dixon averaged 8.82 yards per attempt. This season? Etienne is averaging just 5.4 yards per attempt, and that’s only because he breaks tackle better than almost anyone in the country. How many times have you seen him get hit behind the line of scrimmage and then spin out and break two more and gain just a few yards? Dixon is just over three yards per rush, and as a team, the Tigers are averaging just 4.08 yards per attempt.

Elliott said the coaches used the open date to self-scout, and what they saw led them to believe that the offensive line will be better by using better technique.

“We don't anticipate any lineup changes. The biggest thing we discovered is when you talk about the offensive line and the run game and offensive football, it's all about being on the same page,” Elliott said Monday. “If there is one breakdown and a guy loses fundamentals on a play, it results in an unblocked guy. As you study the last couple of weeks with DJ (Uiagalelei) being in there and Trevor being out, you see they (the defense) were committed to stopping the run. So as soon as there is any kind of run action, there is a safety fit and you have a nickel/SAM, and DJ is still learning how to process and manage the run game.

“I thought there were some opportunities where we could throw the ball on the perimeter and keep those guys honest. So there are a couple of things we will tweak and from a fundamental standpoint make sure we have a good understanding of what we are doing. The biggest thing is just challenging our guys that every time we snap the ball, all 11 have to be on the same page whether it is the run game or the passing game.”

Elliott then said they need to build depth along the offensive line.

“Up front, in fairness to the offensive line, we have to push that depth. Those guys are playing a lot of plays. You look at a guy like Jackson (Carman), who played over 100 snaps when you include special teams snaps,” he said. “That is a lot of football in back-to-back weeks when you play that many snaps. We have to push the young guys to where they can be functional for us and spell some guys and keep them healthy. And we have to get back to the details and precision of what we are doing. At the end of the day, you can have the best schemes and anybody can win on the chalkboard, but you have to win those one-on-one matchups and be able to win those matchups. That is a combination of effort and technique.

“The backs have to be disciplined and go make plays. When you talk about the run game, you think about the offensive line, but when you look at the outside zone the backs are the culprit, not being quite as disciplined.”

Walker Parks is one freshman in line to receive more snaps.

“He is a guy that has played some big snaps for us throughout the season and we feel like he is a guy that is versatile and we can play him at multiple spots,” Elliott said. “(Mason) Trotter is a guy that we feel like we need to push so we have that interior depth on the inside. (Hunter) Rayburn is a guy we need to push to get some good snaps, and Paul Tchio is a guy we need to push to get some good snaps. There are four or five guys we are really pushing, but Walker Parks is the lead dog right now based on what we've seen him do in game situations.”

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