Tigers whipped Bama with fresh legs: Swinney's formula works to everyone's benefit
|Saturday, May 11, 2019, 8:01 AM- -|
The images will stick in the minds of Clemson players as long as the Tigers play football.
There were Travis Etienne’s fresh legs bouncing off Alabama defenders early in the Tigers’ win over the Crimson Tide in the National Championship in January. Walk-ons were getting valuable playing time against previously undefeated NC State. And two years ago, the Tigers ran over and through a tired Alabama defense on the way to the school’s first National Championship since 1981.
Yes, Clemson plays a lot of players. And as the depth continues to blossom with talent across the board that trend will continue.
In the Tigers’ 41-7 win over NC State last October, the Tigers played 54 players in the first quarter. Clemson wound up playing 84 in the game, a game that had ACC Atlantic Division title implications. Instead of another nail-biter in the series, however, the Tigers simply put the nail in the proverbial coffin early.
On that same late October day, a talented Alabama team listed 44 players as having seen the field in a 58-21 victory over Tennessee. Oklahoma listed 49 during an easy 52-27 win over TCU. That’s right – Clemson played more players in the first quarter of its win than either of those two College Football Playoff participants played in the entire game and played 40 more players than the Crimson Tide.
No wonder Clemson was the fresher team in January.
“That has really been part of our formula. That is something that Coach Swinney has spent a lot of time really trying to instill in our program,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “We want to be able to play a lot of different guys. I think we played maybe the most of any of the teams that were in the final four last year. We played close to 71 guys per game on average.”
Scott said that formula holds many benefits.
“That helps you two-fold. It helps you during that season – we’ve played 59 games the last four years, so we are playing almost 15 games per year,” he said. “That becomes a long year when you get towards December and January. So to be able to keep guys fresh for an entire year is a benefit. And then if we ever have an injury or if guys graduate and move on you aren’t putting somebody out there that hasn’t played. But to do that, you have to recruit very well and have guys that can go in and win for you. We are at a place now where we are able to benefit from that.”
Head coach Dabo Swinney says he thinks all of his guys deserve to play.
“I just know that I play as many guys that deserve to play as much as we can,” Swinney said. “You might have one guy that gets 80 percent and one guy that gets 20 percent, but that 20 percent is really critical to the development of your team and that player as you go throughout the course of the season. I think it’s huge by the end of the year when you have a fresh team, a team that’s still got a lot of tread on their tires.”
During the 2018 season, Clemson played an average of 72.5 players per game. That number was good for first place among Top 25 teams. That’s right – Clemson obliterated most of its opponents and still used a majority of the roster. Georgia was second at 65.6 players per game and Florida was third at 62.8 players per game. Army, Fresno St., and Cincinnati were the only other college programs to average 60 players per game.
In looking at the four CFP semifinalists and those that were close to making it, Alabama averaged 55.7 players per game, Ohio St. averaged 56.9 players per game, Oklahoma 52.4, Notre Dame 55.4, and LSU 57.2
Bottom line: If you want to play no matter where you reside on the depth chart, go to Clemson.
SPECIAL THANKS TO CLEMSON FOOTBALL SID ROSS TAYLOR FOR THE STATS!