Execution is necessary to overcome tendencies
CLEMSON -- College football staffs scout their own teams to discover what tendencies they have, to see what works, what does not. Coaches call the process self-scouting.
"We do as much self-scouting as we do on the opponent," said Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who is regarded as possessing one of the better offensive minds in college football.
Clemson self scouts each week, using computer programs to identify tendencies and measure the effectiveness of personnel groups and formations. Still, Boston College claimed it deciphered Clemson's plays in a win against the Tigers two weeks ago.
A four-game evaluation of the Clemson offense shows the Tigers prefer to throw when in shotgun formation, and run when the quarterback is under center. The study also found Clemson is slightly more efficient when running the offense from under center.
Are tendencies always liabilities? Not necessarily, says Fisher.
"I think all great teams have tendencies," Fisher said. "I think that means you believe in something that, your kids believe in something. The thing it gets down to is where execution overrides creativity or diversity. You have to mix it up ... you have to keep people honest. I think all good play-callers do that."
Over the last four games, Clemson has thrown from the shotgun 85 percent of the time, averaging 5.1 yards per pass.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier said Clemson QB Kyle Parker prefers to throw from the shotgun. When asked about the pass/run ratio out of the shotgun, Swinney indicated he did not believe Clemson had any liabilities related to tendencies.
"We throw out of the gun, we run from the gun," Swinney said. "We throw from under center, we run under center, we use play-action."
Napier notes the absence of C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford explains the dip from a school record in points last year, to ranking 10th in the ACC.
"The main tendencies I like to have around here is that we got three or four big players and we are going to get those guys the ball," Napier said.
Napier said Parker has done a good job in the play-action game. Clemson's most efficient passing the last four games (10.7 yards per pass) has come from two-back sets with Parker under center, though the sample size was small, just 11 plays.
Play-action is helped since Clemson ran on 70 percent of snaps with Parker under center in the four-game study.
Clemson's most effective running has come from one-back sets with Parker under center, where Clemson averages seven yards per carry. Mostly responsibly for that is Andre Ellington's instinctive running behind a zone-blocking scheme.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said it's OK to know if a player like Ellington is getting the ball.
"I don't know that tendencies are a bad thing; most good teams have tendencies," Johnson said. "There's a misnomer out there among fans that 'OK this week we can be in the shotgun and throw it 45 times, next week we can be in wish-bone and run the option. Next we'll put in two-back power running game.' You can't do that. You find very few teams who are any good that don't have something they hang their hat on."