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Paws up, Paws down: Takeaways from Wake Forest game

David Perez, Asst. Photo Editor

Quarterback Hunter Johnson (15) entered the game late in the third quarter after the injury to starter Kelly Bryant. Johnson was 5-5 for 42 yards and threw a touchdown pass to tight end Cannon Smith. 

Paws up: Running back blocking

At a base level, the run game is used to set up bigger plays for the passing game. But Clemson takes it one step further in having their running backs block really well during the passing plays. Tavien Feaster is the starting running back for this very reason. He runs just as well as the other guys, but he sets himself apart with his blocking. Against Wake Forest, he had a couple of crucial blocks downfield to set up bigger plays. He blocked for Travis Etienne, who almost broke through for a big score late in the game, but was ankle-tackled for a gain of 14. 


Paws down: Kelly Bryant running

This needs to stop. Not entirely, but the volume of running that Bryant does needs to stop. He is getting hurt more often, and it doesn’t provide any new ways to trick opposing defenses. His effectiveness is also lacking. Against Wake Forest, he rushed 12 times for just 39 yards when he could have given the ball to Feaster or Etienne, who are both averaging much higher than that. Bryant rolled his ankle during a run and his starting in next week’s game against Syracuse is questionable. His running just isn’t what it was at the beginning of the season, which could be due to the lack of adequate blocking, the play calls themselves or Bryant regressing in his abilities. Deshaun Watson stopped getting injured as often once he stopped running, and it’s time for Bryant to do the same. He is more valuable to his team when he is on the field.


Paws up: Hunter Johnson

The freshman from Brownsburg, Indiana was incredibly impressive during his second time on the field. Rolling with the second and third string players can be hard to do, and there can be growing pains evident in how the players handle themselves. However, Johnson overcame them to march right down the field and score on his only drive. He went 5-for-5 with 42 yards through the air and achieved his first collegiate touchdown to tight end Cannon Smith. Johnson looked poised and confident despite facing a quality first-string defense. 


Paws down: Play-calling while leading

This falls squarely on the shoulders of the offensive coordinators and head coach. There has got to be a different look from the offense when the Tigers are ahead or the opposing team will easily shut down the offense and keep the game within striking distance, resulting in a repeat of what happened against Wake Forest. 

What would be nice to see is showing that same formation, then doing something completely different. If someone up in the press box can guess what the offense is going to do for an entire drive, then you need to switch up the game plan. Moving the pocket so Kelly Bryant can be on the move yet still protected would be incredibly useful. Bootlegging and rollouts are a great way to have a mobile quarterback fake out the defense without risking himself by running into the middle of the fray. At the very least, find a different way to disguise the HB Powers and WR screens. The technique is quickly getting old. 

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