That actually went better than I expected… maybe we’re on to something.
While the Clemson Tigers edged out the Syracuse Orange last week by a field goal, for a third straight late, three-point loss, not all was lost. In a day where the Clemson defense threw multiple looks at the Orange, the offensive line actually looked to do something positive.
I had highlighted prior to the game that Syracuse had to take advantage of the fact that Brian Bresee and Tyler Davis were injured in the middle of that defensive front, and whether by design, or just how the beast that is Sean Tucker is, they did just that, rushing for 5.8 yards per carry (YPC) between the tackles. Because of his burst outside, he also averaged an astonishing 9.375 YPC outside the tackles. These numbers were aided by a 39-yard and 54-yard run and if you take those out of the equation, he averaged 3.0 YPC inside the tackles and 3.3 YPC outside, consistent no matter where he’s running the ball until he breaks one.
By the numbers, the offense ran eight plays that Tucker hit either right or left A-gaps, six which he hit B-gaps, five targeting C-gaps and three off the edge. The way Tucker cuts, there’s usually a gap shift one way or another, a function of his running style and a zone blocking scheme. So you’re looking at fourteen of his twenty-two attempts inside the tackles. In general, the play call was pushing the line and Tucker interior and then working them out. The numbers are slightly skewed by the two long runs of 39 yards (B-gap) and 54 yards (Edge) but and they were consistently rushing (and run blocking) against a still above average defensive front for 7.1 YPC, and 3.2 if you take the two burst plays out.
On the line, Matthew Bergeron had a day with Myles Murphy. Murphy accounted for two hurries on the day, but was otherwise bottled up by the tackle. Carlos Vettorello had a less stellar day lining up on Xavier Thomas, who has a penchant for making many tackles look silly, so we won’t hold it against them. He gave up four pressures on the day per PFF.com with three hurries and a hit, grading out at a 48.1 pass blocking. This said, with the looks Brent Venables comes up with, there were a variety of folks that each tackle was blocking over the course of the day.
Interior, Chris Bleich had a single series day, being replaced by Kalan Ellis again after picking up another knock in the first quarter. Ellis continues to impress and was up to the task against a quality interior. Tre Williams and Ruke Orhorhoro are no slouches and definitely put up some fight in the pass rush game. While Airon Servais and Dakota Davis both had less than stellar games on paper, they passed the look test more than the grades showed. Davis notched a 47.2 pass blocking, but I felt played above that number. Same with Servais’s 50.2 in the run block game.
Overall the unit is gelling more and more, and while individual performances can fluctuate, I feel they’re getting more comfortable with each other, as well as what Garrett Shrader and Sean Tucker are doing behind them. Tucker can find any seam you need him to, so they don’t need to be Orlando Pace out there, just serviceable to get the job done and keep the chains moving. We’ll see more what they can do against a good-not-great Virginia Tech defensive front this coming week.