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CFB: 2019 Clemson Defensive Efficiency Numbers, and How The Venables Multiple Scheme Correlates

Check out our regular season offensive and defensive efficiency rankings linked below.

2019 Clemson Defensive Efficiency Numbers, And How The Brent Venables Scheme Correlates

The Clemson defense led by Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables came into the CFP semifinal ranked 2nd nationally in Havoc Rate defense with 3rd down stops included (39.70%) during the regular season. Subtract the third-down stops from the equation and go with the raw Havoc Rate, and Clemson ranks 3rd nationally (21.98%). The Clemson defense gets off of the field at a high rate in every measure used to calculate defensive Havoc. Clemson ranks 3rd nationally with 129 third-down stops and 7th in 3rd down conversion rate (28.33%).

Against the Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Semi-Final, the Tiger defense created Havoc with 3rd down stops on 30.6% of their total plays. Without the 3rd down stops, the Tigers tallied a 17.6% havoc created rate with 4 sacks, 9 TFL's, and 2 INT's. The difference between their Havoc Rate with third-down stops and without is a 13% differential, 5% shy of their season-long average differential.

During the regular season, Ohio State averaged 7.08 yds per play (7th Nationally), Clemson held them to 6.1 yds per play. The Clemson defense ranks 2nd nationally in yds per play allowed, giving up 3.84. Early in the game, the Buckeyes were able to hit on big plays in the run game with J.K. Dobbins hitting for a 68 yd TD, and another for 64 yds that resulted in a FG. In total.

The Clemson defense did a great job limiting the drives that had big plays from turning into TD's. When Ohio State reached the RedZone 3 times and came away with only 9 pts (3 FG's), assuming that Ohio State finishes a few of these red zone opportunities with TD's instead of FG's in the first half the games final outcome might have been different.

Venables Able to Confuse and Stifle Justin Fields

The Buckeyes ranked 2nd nationally during the regular season in interceptions; Fields threw 1 INT during the regular season, vs. Clemson in the Semi-Final he threw two. One of the two happened at a critical moment in the final seconds of the game.

Ohio State had issues vs. the Clemson pressure, which reflected similarly to Ohio State's regular-season rank of 76th nationally in sacks allowed. Clemson sacked Fields four times while accumulating 9 TFL's.

The Clemson Defense Bent, but Didn't Break vs. Ohio State

Ohio State had three possessions that led to red zone opportunities in the first half. The Clemson defense clamped down in the second half keeping Ohio State from reaching the red zone the rest of the game.

In the analysis below, we chose three plays to dissect from the Clemson vs. Ohio State Semi-Final that had an impact on the outcome of the game.

Situation 1

D&D 3rd & 8

AOF -27

QTR 3, 7:26

Pre Snap Look

Ohio State is in their 11 Personnel with their TE flexed to the field and Dobbins flanking Fields to his right. Ohio State checks with the sideline before flipping the flexed TE to the field side into the slot and moving the slot outside.

Clemson is in 3-3-5, or their hybrid 3-3-6 personnel with Isaiah Simmons playing middle safety. Clemson has 5 in the box; the nickel defender is playing heavy inside leverage, which indicates a potential blitz off the left edge attacking J.K. Dobbins's protection side.

The Post Snap Outcome

Clemson brings 5 at the snap with the field ILB, and the nickel off the edge before wrapping the boundary ILB around on a delayed blitz into the field side C gap. Clemson sent six against 6 in protection, but the delayed action by the boundary ILB had OSU's offensive line believing that they had a 5 on 4 advantage before wrapping around.

The wrapping ILB was able to run free through the C gap because there wasn't anyone to engage him. It appears that the Center had responsibility vs. the boundary ILB, but he had no chance post-snap at getting around traffic to pick up the wrapping ILB. On a positive note for Ohio State, J.K. Dobbins picked up the nickel on this play, but it would be the delayed wrapping ILB blitz that would get to Field's for a sack.

Situation 2

D&D 3rd & 8

AOF -47

QTR 3, 4:20

Pre Snap Look

Ohio State is in 11 personnel with their TE offset flanking the RT, Dobbins, flanked to Fields right, Ohio State is on the right hash in a 2 x 2 look.

Clemson is in their nickel/hybrid look that places do everything Hybrid Isaiah Simmons at deep post safety. Clemson has five in the box, with their weakside ILB showing blitz toward the A or B gap and the SAM showing blitz off of the edge.

The Post Snap Outcome

Clemson uses a replacement pressure by blitzing their boundary corner (a Venables staple) and replacing his boundary #1 responsibility with the SS. The weak ILB bluffed blitz presnap and dropped into middle wall coverage. Clemson presented Fields with man to man on both outside WR's presnap.

Dobbins and the TE both stayed in protection without releasing, and that allowed the Clemson defense to cover the boundary WR over the top and underneath with two forcing a lob pass into the zone, allowing Simmons to read Fields's eyes and come down from the high safety position to make the play. Clemson sent 4 and dropped 7.

Situation 3

D&D: 1st & 10

AOF: -43

QTR: 4, 14:33

Pre Snap Look

Ohio State is in 11 personnel with their TE in line to the right, with Dobbins flanked to Fields right. Ohio State is in a 2 x 2 set, lined up on the left hash. The slot right WR motions to the boundary slot left.

Clemson is in their 3-3-5 Hybrid look with Simmons playing in the secondary and mirroring the motion man in the slot. The play design by Clemson feels like a baited play because of Simmons showing man vs. K.J. Hill.

The Post Snap Outcome

Clemson corners showing man, with Isaiah Simmons showing man vs. K.J. Hills slot movement presnap. Both Clemson overhang defenders are showing blitz, with the weakside overhang player shooting straight upfield, and the backside overhang scraping across the front eyeing Dobbins in protection. Justin Fields was able to sidestep the initial pressure before that scraping backside defender was able to close in. Clemson sent six and dropped 5 on this play.

In Conclusion

The Clemson defense has been ranked at or near the top of college football under Brent Venables the last several years. His approach is aggressive, and his scheme is multiple, making it difficult for opponents to gameplan. Against the Buckeyes, it took some time as his defense gave up the big plays early in the game, but after making in-game adjustments, the Tigers were able to slow down the Ohio State run game and confuse Fields.

Watching Clemson defensive film was one of the most challenging tasks because of the multiple different looks. The one constant that started to stick out was the usage of Isaiah Simmons at safety. His versatility is unreal, considering he can come down and play the Sam backer at a high level and then drop back and become a post safety.

Clemson has a shot to win back to back titles and win 30 in a row. If they are going to do this, it will take another tremendous defensive effort against a historic LSU offense.

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