With TCU’s Garrett Riley the reported choice to be the new offensive coordinator for Clemson football, what must Riley do to add some juice to the Tigers’ offense?
Riley would appear to have plenty of pieces with which to work. They should make his task achievable, particularly for a coach who has built an impressive resume in a fairly short time frame.
Complaints about Clemson’s offense in its only season under offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter were plentiful, with descriptions including stagnant, non-imaginative and devoid of a downfield passing threat.
Streeter was fired by Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on Thursday.
Inconsistent quarterback play
Streeter remained loyal to DJ Uiagalelei until, well, almost the bitter end, defending his starter repeatedly even when it was evident that his struggles had manifested and rendered the offense ineffective and predictable.
Riley should be able to hit the ground running, er, passing, with Cade Klubnik, who despite limited action exhibited a considerably better touch, both in short-range and downfield passes. Incoming freshman Chris Vizzina, a four-star quarterback out of Alabama, should make the spring even more interesting.
Inconsistent wide receiver play
Between drops and injuries, the Tigers’ receiving corps struggled throughout the season, an unfamiliar occurrence for a program that typically touts itself as Wide Receiver U. Uiagalelei and his receivers appeared to be on different pages on multiple occasions, which only added to the frustration felt by much of the fan base.
It didn’t help that the team’s top deep threat – Beaux Collins – missed four games, including the Orange Bowl. In short, the team had no “go-to” receiver, which allowed freshman Antonio Williams to emerge as the most reliable pass catcher.
Riley won’t be afraid to “open up” the offense, which in itself should make fans happy. And Riley will be happy to find a potentially solid group of receivers, led by three rising sophomores (Williams, Cole Turner and Adam Randall) and a collection of big-play threats in newcomers Noble Johnson, Ronan Hanafin, Tyler Brown and “Tink” Kelley.
Bubble screens have their place in offensive strategy, but Streeter called the play so often that it became, well, offensive. Fans grew weary of the non-aggressive approach.
Expect Riley to open up the playbook and present plenty of problems for opposing defenses. TCU scored at least 34 points in 11 of 15 games, and quarterback Max Duggan became a star. He didn’t become a Heisman finalist with conservative play-calling by Riley.
Clemson managed only 58 plays that gained at least 20 yards last season, which ranked 66th nationally; TCU had 91 such plays, which ranked the Horned Frogs fourth.
Riley, who on Dec. 6 won the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football, is a logical choice – an offensive gunslinger, if you will, who played for Mike Leach at Texas Tech and became a disciple of Leach’s wide-open offensive approach. Don’t expect him to abandon that philosophy now.