Clemson set for Wofford's 'confusion'
CLEMSON -- Kevin Steele says offenses in college football are trying to create one thing: confusion.
Steele knows the pro game. He coached linebackers in the NFL, where he says there are essentially three types of offenses that all share core philosophies. For example, most pro teams possess a power-running game, combination passing routes, and all teams place a premium on protecting the quarterback.
The college game is different, says the veteran Clemson defensive coordinator. There are more programs, hence more experimenting. The quarterback is often a run threat. And the playing field is slanted more than in the NFL, where talent is distributed more evenly thanks to the draft and salary cap.
Those factors combine to create uncertainty for defenders and coordinators, confusion that Wofford will showcase at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when the Terriers play at Clemson.
"In college, you don't have an owner who is paying the (quarterback) $120 million," Steele said. "They run the quarterback more ... then what's happened is you get more formations and creating space and creating confusion."
Talk about confusion. Take a look at Clemson's early-season schedule.
The Tigers opened against Troy's run-and-shoot offense. On Saturday, they will see Wofford's option-based offense. After that, there's Auburn's up-tempo misdirection scheme followed by Florida State's pro-style offense.
Now imagine teaching a new lesson each week for four consecutive weeks to a young defense minus six starters from last season.
Of those early-season opponents, Wofford might present the most confusion for defenses.
Steele describes the Wofford offense as 40 percent Georgia Tech option, 30 percent Auburn misdirection and 30 percent South Carolina run-and-gun.
"Go make that game plan," Steele said. "How do you beat teams that have better talent than you do? Create confusion in space."
Wofford's unconventional scheme won it the SoCon title last year. The Terriers nearly upset South Carolina in Columbia in 2006, losing 27-20, and challenged the Gamecocks again in 2008, losing 23-13.
Clemson has not played Wofford since Sept. 8, 2001.
But it's not just smaller programs practicing college football's version of guerilla warfare. In the BCS title game last year, Auburn and Oregon each employed unconventional, up-tempo, misdirection offenses. Urban Meyer brought the spread-option from Utah to Florida. Old concepts like the wing-T and option football have evolved to feature faster tempos and stretch the field vertically and horizontally.
The common thread is defenses everywhere, at every level, are being forced to adapt.
After allowing 4.6 yards per rush against Troy, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said the young Clemson defense will be tested against a Wofford team that led the FCS in rushing last year, paced by fullback Eric Breitenstein, who rushed for 1,600 yards last year.
"We have to do a great job of playing with our eyes," Swinney said. "Their offense is a big challenge."