Clemson Tigers show sign of weakness with poor run blocking

Quarterback Deshaun Watson is leading the team, but with little help from his offensive line can the Tigers continue to produce?

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

Clemson Tigers show sign of weakness with poor run blocking

The Clemson Tigers may be the undefeated No. 1 team in the country, but that doesn’t mean they’re flawless. One area the Tigers have struggled with all season – and struggled with on Saturday against Syracuse – is run blocking. For the season, the entire offense has a run blocking grade of -47.4. That’s really, really bad.

The Tigers’ inability to block for the rushing attack has obviously yet to cost them a game, but it’s certainly something to worry about.

On the bright side, running back Wayne Gallman has been brilliant this season. His +15.5 grade as a runner is 12th among 233 qualified running backs and his 84.3 elusive rating ranks 31st. It also helps the running game to have a weapon like quarterback Deshaun Watson (+10.2 run grade, 7th among 160 qualified QBs), who can help complicate opposing defenses by keeping them honest versus the pass and run. But the question remains — can both Gallman and Watson continue to carry the load?

On the offensive line, the Tigers have nine linemen who have played at least 100 snaps this season, all with a negative grade in the run game except Taylor Hearn (+3.9 in 121 snaps), who hasn’t played since their Week 8 win at Miami.

The problems aren’t just contained to the offensive line either. Starting tight end, Jordan Leggett, is ranked 191st out of 196 qualified tight ends with a run blocking grade of -11.0.

The offense had another good day against Syracuse this past Saturday. As a team they finished the day with a +4.6 overall grade, and were at least average or better in all aspects offensively except for run blocking (-5.1 grade).

The Tigers finished the game with 200 yards on the ground (taking away the two yards they lost on two QB kneels at the end) and they averaged 6.1 YPC, but when you break down how they earned those yards you can quickly see it was mostly in spite of their offensive line, not because of it.

59 of their rushing yards came on four QB scrambles, so that leaves us with 141 yards on 29 designed runs. On the ten runs they ran that went to the outside they gained 72 yards for a YPC of 7.2, but on the 19 runs they ran that went between the tackles (or off their outside shoulder) they gained just 69 yards for a YPC of just 3.6.

Gallman finished the afternoon with 66 rushing yards, 24 of those which came on runs between the tackles, including 22 after contact.

While Clemson does not possess many flaws, their inability to run block could become a hurdle in their pursuit of a national championship.

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