Gallman's absence hurt, so where was Feaster?
|Sunday, October 16, 2016, 8:01 AM- -|
CLEMSON – Running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott has the deepest and possibly the most talented stable of backs that he’s had during his time at Clemson, but the heart and soul of that group is junior Wayne Gallman.
The Georgia native was Clemson’s leading rusher in 2015 and should do the same in 2016, but when he went out early in Clemson 24-17 win over N.C. State Saturday, the Tigers’ offense lost one of its most important players.
Gallman took a shot to the head on Clemson’s first drive and wouldn’t return after being diagnosed with a concussion. The combination of Adam Choice, C.J. Fuller and Tyshon Dye couldn’t make up for his absence, but Elliott said it was important that they stick with running game to keep the Wolfpack defense honest.
"I think it keeps the defense off balanced. You go into a throwing contest every single play and then those guys will pin their ears back and rush in every single play,” Elliott said after the game. “Now, when you can have positive plays in the running game it sets up play action and different things you can do to stay committed. Obviously, numbers wise, would've liked to have more success. I felt like we were balanced over the course of the game."
Even after Gallman left the game, Elliott never changed his approach and knew Clemson would need some contribution from the running backs if the Tigers were to win the game.
“We still tried to stay committed to the run when we could and we had a two-minute situation where we were going to be heavy pass and try to get points, but overall it didn't really change so we stuck with it,” Elliott said after the game. “We still tried to stay committed to the running game. It didn't change the calls. Structurally, these guys have studied us so they knew in the running game the things that we like to do, so it's a cat and mouse game and they weren't going to give us much on the perimeter running game, which we tested early by bringing the motions and we saw the way they were going to play us. We knew we were going to have to pound away with the base hits - two, three, four and maybe five yards a clip.”
Fuller was Clemson’s leading rusher with 16 carries for 56 yards, and Elliott said overall he was pleased with how his running backs played.
"I thought he had a good demeanor and I'll get there in on the tape to see technically how he was but we knew that front would be difficult to run the football at will on those guys but we had some good things with the pass protection,” Elliott said. “I'm really encouraged with his performance and when Choice was in there, I didn't see any issues. You hate that for Tyshon down there with the opportunity to put one in the end zone but he just lost his focus on the ball security when he went down."
But, where was 5-star speedster Tavien Feaster when Clemson needed a spark in the running game?
"The game was tight. They were bringing some pressure and did some things on third down and even started to bring some pressures on second down that could confuse a young guy,” Elliott said. “The biggest thing was we felt like Fuller had a rhythm. He was doing well. Him and Choice back and forth and trying to get Tyshon in there and then we were going to go to Feaster had the game been a little bit different.
“It was a tough situation. Again, he's a guy that has to learn it in practice every single day. We felt like we had a couple guys that were battle tested when the game got tight. Definitely wanted to get him in there but it's hard to get five guys reps, it's still hard even when Wayne goes down. Obviously Tyshon has been playing his best football since he's been here and he's got Fuller in front of him and Choice."
Elliott continued by saying that it’s a matter having a complete understanding of the game plan and what the offense is trying to do.
"Yes (he’s healthy). There are no issues with his shoulder. It's just a matter of putting it all together and understanding the entire system,” Elliott said. “We're at a point now that we're playing with tempo and potential Heisman candidate back there at quarterback we don't want to get hit and it's everything coming together but he's made progress in practice and part of our program is having to earn time and he's continuing to earn it and today was just a different situation. There wasn't a real rhythm at times offensively and we felt like we were trying to be perfect in every situation."