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Notre Dame vs. Clemson Film Preview: Tigers to Attack the Edge

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We sat down with Shakin the Southland to discuss a handful of Clemson's drives against Louisville.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

We were approached by SB Nation's Clemson blog Shakin the Southland to talk about some football film for both of our teams. Here at OFD I'll discuss some of the Tigers' drives against Louisville. Head over to StS and read up on a few Notre Dame drives for some more football talk.

Clemson Offense vs. Louisville (1:18:40 minute mark)

Eric: Clemson starts out in 5-wide and picks up a nice gain on a screen to RayRay, who by the way was a big ‘want' for us due to his name. Notre Dame needs a RayRay. I'm kind of afraid of Clemson spreading the field like this, particularly if you use some motion and sweeps. But it seems like Tiger fans have been wanting more of that but it isn't happening? Perhaps we'll see more this weekend? The Irish have generally been very good at shutting down receiver screens like this, though. I'm interested to see how they fare against better athletes on Saturday.

The thing that sticks out to me is that Clemson is moving at a fast pace. Not good news for Notre Dame. Moving quickly + good quarterback play has killed VanGorder since he came to South Bend. The right tackle got beat off the edge forcing an incompletion but I love the speed option and pitch to Gallman on the next play. Nice blocking on the perimeter and great spin move and speed to pick up a nice chunk of yards.

Moving fast again with plenty of time on the play-clock  and a quick pitch followed up by a too-easy quick out route for a first down. These two kind of plays will probably have a decent amount of success for Clemson if you protect the ball and keep moving quickly.

The drive suddenly grinds to a halt after looking really promising. Louisville gets into the backfield but the back does a nice job making something out of nothing. The 2nd down QB draw out of a 5-wide set didn't get much. Generally, I'd say Watson will do more damage as a runner using the read option--is that something Clemson uses often? I think we'll be ready for draw plays like this and Jaylon Smith can be a giant eraser in the middle and/or the Irish defensive line excels at collapsing the pocket (we're terrible at edge rushing, btw) so draws like this are tough to come by sometimes.

Not a bad 3rd down call, but it looks like they asked the left tackle to chip block and then get up to the corner on a running back screen. That's a lot to ask for a young lineman and the corner read the screen the whole way, doing just enough to get a piece of the running back.

Pretty decent drive by Clemson, they won most of the snaps and had to be disappointed to settle for a field goal. I like their ability to switch from 5-wide to 3 receiver sets with a blocking H-back. It seems like we shouldn't expect too much of a traditional tight end role from Clemson's offense, no?

Alex: Yes, we wanted to see more perimeter play against Louisville since 1) we already knew they were susceptible to it and 2) Clemson actually moved the ball well outside. We were pleased to see an adjustment to it on this drive. Regarding the 5 wide QB draw, it is not something Clemson is generally successful with. Watson does well enough on the zone read, but particularly well on a lead back draw where he follows Gallman.

You should not expect much from the Clemson tight ends. Leggett and Seckinger are serviceable receivers but liabilities in the run game. We mainly ask them line up in the slot or H back, where they block for a WR screen or arc block on a zone running play, respectively.

Clemson Offense vs. Louisville (1:30:15 minute mark)

Eric: A nice quick touchdown drive for Clemson started out slow but we'd get some neat things at the end. I can't tell how Scott got the ball but you can see the Tigers again trying to attack the perimeter with their speed. The next snap from the Pistol goes nowhere but it sets up a play in a few snaps time.

Watson makes a nice, quick read to the tight end for the first down. Almost too easy, right? Another screen to Scott goes for a nice gain. I'm really curious to see how many screens Clemson throws in this game with the Irish.

The last two plays on this drive are really nice play-calls. You're back in Pistol again with the tight end in a H-back role seemingly like you're going to use him as a lead blocker. But whoops! Seckinger sneaks back across the line and into the flat. After Watson fakes the hand-off (Is this a read on his part? Will Watson hand this off or run the ball himself ever from this play?) he's got the tight end wide open. Even with the ball deflected it's completed.

I honestly have no idea what Clemson did on this touchdown pass. Everyone is bunched up at the line, the tight end is at left tackle, then the right tackle moves out to receiver. What is this wizardry? Looks like no one covered Leggett as he ran right down the seam. Watson dropped the ball right over the (I'm assuming very confused) linebacker for the touchdown.

Interesting stuff, there. Notre Dame has been beaten badly on a couple trick plays this year. Although I doubt we see this whacky one Clemson would be smart to try something during the game with the Irish.

Alex: For all of our perceived struggles in this game, the play-calling wasn't the issue; execution was. We found easy yards aplenty but either forced things that weren't there, or had uncharacteristic miscues (namely from Watson).

On the play to Seckinger, Watson has the run pass option -- he forces the defender to commit either to Seckinger or himself, and attacks the resulting opening. Obviously we would much rather him throw, as he did here.

The trick play is one we have used for scores at least 3 times in the last few years now. The initial bunch formation and subsequent formation change left Louisville scrambling, and two seconds later the ball is snapped and there's Leggett streaking to the end zone. Dbbm analyzed the play HERE.

Clemson Defense vs. Louisville (7:34 minute mark)

Eric: It looked like Louisville briefly had something going here on this drive but it ended swiftly. The Cardinals came out with a heavy package but found a soft spot on a curl route for a nice first down throw. On second down they get a nice run out of that heavy set, although the linebacker (I think that's Boulware, correct?) does his best to fill the hole as hard as any linebacker in the history of the world. That was super aggressive.

By the way, Louisville ran a bunch of these heavy sets at our injury-depleted defense last year and had a lot of success.

I was surprised by the next play-call from the Cardinals. It's 2nd and short and they ultimately run a bootleg right into the blitzing safety T.J. Green for a big loss. He was completely unblocked and you'd think Louisville should have noticed him down near the box. Is he someone the Irish will have to worry about doing things like this?

If there's one thing Notre Dame has done well in recent years it's set protections from potential blitzes. That's drilled into the quarterbacks from the time they set on campus so hopefully it's nothing something Kizer struggles with in Death Valley with the noise.

On third down, Clemson's defensive line simply dominates and collapses the pocket in just a couple seconds. That forced a harmless completion well short of the first down marker.

Alex: We love Ben Boulware's recklessness. He has zero concern for his own safety, or anyone else's. He is the "havoc" guy we blitz the most. We figure he's not the best dropping into coverage, so we may as well send him to cause mayhem.

On the safety blitz, usually that is a 3rd down speciality but Venables made a great call here. I expect Kearse (best player on this defense) and Green to crowd the line of scrimmage more often than normal; Clemson trusts its secondary and we are more worried about a bruising ground attack than getting burned through the air.

Clemson Defense vs. Louisville (1:25:16 minute mark)

Eric: Almost instantaneous penetration by the defensive line on the snap! I was surprised the quarterback got the ball off in the first place, and secondly that he threw a catchable ball while being hit really hard.

This was a great pass break-up by the corner. He was in perfect position but it was one of those balls thrown just short enough where the receiver would have an opportunity to stop and come back for it.

Can I just mention real quick how terrible these Louisville uniforms are?

The Cardinals go back to a heavy set and after a nice cut-back gain about 9 yards on a run. But, that cut-back was thanks to a holding call. It's coming back! Clemson's quest to rattle the quarterback continues on second down with linebackers flying through the A-gaps. Again, he gets the ball off but only for a measly 4 yards. That's a good play-call by Clemson and a big win on that down.

On third down, dear Lord does Shaq Lawson abuse the left tackle for the sack. The tight end stays in at first only to release for a pass and it would have been nice if he helped out the tackle with a chip block or something. That just wasn't fair.

Lawson reminds me of a leaner version of our former top defensive end Stephon Tuitt, now with the Steelers. How good can Lawson be? He moves ridiculously well for someone his size.

Alex: As I mentioned earlier, Boulware runs a bullet (A gap) blitz seemingly once every three downs. He is our havoc guy and were he a shade faster, he could have 6 or 7 sacks by now. Lawson will declare for the draft after this season, he made it known last year. Dabo calls him the best DL recruit he's ever signed -- take a look at the number of Clemson defensive linemen the NFL right now (I think it's almost 10) so it is extremely high praise.

Clemson's defensive line had a great night with 5 sacks against Louisville, but the pass rush was not where we need it to be against Notre Dame's OL. We must keep in mind Louisville's OL is flaming hot garbage.  Still, we rank first in Bill Connelly's adjusted line yards, so at least there's consistency in shutting down the run. This is the matchup I am most anxious to see Saturday night. ND's elite OL vs Clemson's rebuilt, but still apparently elite DL.

This is one of the few times in which Clemson will play its base 4-3 more often than usual -- usually we replace the SAM backer for a nickel since 1) we play so many spread teams and 2) few teams run successfully against Clemson under Brent Venables. I look forward to seeing Clemson in the 4-3, since as our starting nickel (Korrin Wiggins) tore his ACL in fall camp, the new starter (Travis Blanks) tore his two years ago, and behind him the dropoff is a concern. With a true 4-3 and Green or Kearse in the box, Kizer will have opportunities to find open receivers. If I'm Brian Kelly, I put Fuller in the slot as much as possible to keep him away from Mackensie Alexander.