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Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Joyner: Clemson built for future

By Matt Fortuna

Can Clemson ensure that 2011 wasn't a one-year wonder? NFL Insider K.C. Joyner sure seems to think so Insider .

Citing Clemson's route-depth metrics, among several other reasons, "The Football Scientist" suggests the Tigers are not far away from being a much improved defensive team.
The yards per attempt (YPA) totals on short, medium and deep passes are all very solid. The problem is that the 19.5 YPA on bomb routes throws the entire pass defense equation out of whack.

To put it another way, Clemson's YPA totals would have been good across the board were it not for nine completed bomb passes. Since six of those completions were via post routes or post route variants, solving this problem could be as simple as getting the safeties to adhere to the old rule of staying as deep as the deepest receiver.

Good tacking could also solve a lot of issues. Five of the 12 short-pass touchdowns allowed in these games went for gains of 22 or more yards. Clemson could also benefit from better cornerback play, especially in place of starting cornerback Xavier Brewer and his 10.3 YPA mark.

Then, of course, there's the fact the offense returns a trio of All-ACC skill players in quarterback Tajh Boyd (first team), receiver Sammy Watkins (first) and running back Andre Ellington (second).

Throw in the Tigers' recruiting efforts -- Clemson ranked No. 10 in ESPNU's 2012 class rankings this year and has had seven top 25 classes since 2006, tied with Florida State for most in the ACC -- and the fact that Brent Venables has arrived to shore up the loose ends on defense, and Joyner sees Clemson in position to build off last year's ACC title and embark on one of the best stretches in program history.