3 and Out (Breaking Down Defensive Series) Pt. 1 Clemson Defense Stands Tall After Turnover


We start part one of 3 and Out with the Fiesta Bowl and Clemson defense who last Saturday shut out a very good Ohio State offense.  Holding Ohio State to just 215 yards of total offense and forcing 3 turnovers. Brent Venables is easily one of the top 3 defensive coordinators in college football. This game he did a good job of mixing up his looks sending pressure and just rushing 3 or 4 playing zone or man coverage. Sometimes it felt like he was inside Ohio State huddle having the perfect call for certain situations.


Clemson had their first offensive possession of the game after forcing a 3 and out on Ohio State game opening drive.  Deshaun Watson threw an interception that set up the Ohio State offense on the +33 yard line. As a defensive coordinator one of the toughest things to do is to get a stop after a turnover that sets up them up on the positive side of the field. Clemson defense did just that and here is how:

Ohio State comes out in 10 personnel 2×2 set Double Slot formation with the RB set to the field. Clemson comes out in their base 4-3 defense. They set the strength to the field and the Sam linebacker bumps out to apex #2 removed. The safeties are in a 2 deep look.

Ohio State wants to run Power Read Pitch into the boundary side of the formation. This is a good play on paper as they will try to use the Defensive End’s squeeze and spill rule against him. They want the DE to squeeze and spill so they can bypass him and get the pulling block to the second level of the defense.  It looks like the QB is reading the front side linebacker because once he widens with the RB motion the QB automatically keeps it.

Clemson’s DE does a great job here of really squeezing and getting hands the Left Tackle. He squeezes him so much the Left Tackle is not able to climb up to the backside Linebacker. The DE squeezes so good that the pulling Center has to pick up the scraping backside MLB. The play should still be successful but the FS reads it and fits very fast in the alley to make the tackle on the QB that the WR doesn’t have a chance to crack him. Even the DE after squeezing on the left tackle is able to redirect and get in on the tackle with the FS. This is a very good display Clemson defense being disruptive also showing its talent on defense and not letting Ohio State execute.



Its 2nd and 10 ball still on the left hash. Ohio State comes out in 11 personnel 3×1 Pistol Trey formation to field.  I think Ohio State is expecting pressure in this situation they start with #1 WR outside of #2 on the ball I think they short motion him to try and get a man or zone read.

Venables decides to play it safe on this 2nd & 8 with it still being a scoreless gain. Clemson is still in its base 4-3 defense here the SLB bumps out and plays outside leverage of #2 removed. Clemson does this because they are playing Cover 3 Buzz where the SS will buzz down and be the hook/curl player.

Ohio State goes with 7 man full slide protection expecting pressure I believe.  To the 3×1 side #1 runs a post and #2 runs a curl and #3 is apart of the pass protection. To the single WR side he has a simple comeback at the sticks.  The boundary Cornerback is playing a press bail technique so the comeback is tough to guard in 3 deep coverage. Also the WLB who is the curl/flat player cant get underneath the comeback in time because he still has to be a run player in the box. Ohio State completes the pass for an easy 7 yard gain.


Ohio State gets a nice completion to put them in 3rd & 1, they immediately look to catch Clemson defense off guard by going up tempo trying to hurry to the line of scrimmage to run a play to pick up the 1 yard for a first down. Ohio State goes formation into the boundary with 11 personnel 3×1 Gun Trey formation. Ohio State looks to run Quarterback zone which is a great call in this situation because its 1 yard you have to get and you hope that you can get a hat on a hat blocking wise where the QB can basically fall for a first down.

Clemson does get a little bit surprised by the no huddle up tempo but you see the Linebackers signaling a strength call and the Safeties signaling the coverage call. It looks like Clemson makes a base call here running just your basic Cover 3 with the SS spinning down strong side to be the curl/flat player. The SLB looks like he is aligning in a 9 technique and Clemson sets the 3 technique to the field making this a Under Front defense.

Clemson barely gets set before Ohio State snaps the ball but the key to this tackle for a loss it the playside DE doing a good job of firing out and beating the Left Guard to the block point. This allows the DE to come right in the backfield to make an easy tackle for a loss on the QB.  If the Left Guard slows down the Defensive End he suppose to reach just a little bit its no doubt the QB would have picked up this first down easy and some more.

Clemson defense did not get rattled being thrown into a tough situation having to defend a short field early in a scoreless game. They played very disciplined physical football with Ohio State which I think was a huge difference in this game overall.


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