Point of attack

Larry Williams, Senior Writer
Tiger Illustrated

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Short-yardage situations are usually the time to put your biggest, most physical players on the field and let the best men win these often brutal confrontations.

In general, Clemson under Dabo Swinney has partaken plenty in putting its heavy offensive personnel on the field in hopes of churning out a yard or two that can extend a drive. Heck, he's even taken it a step further by putting some of his biggest and best defensive players on offense to plow short-yardage holes.

But an interesting thing happened during last year's postseason. In the ACC title game against Virginia Tech, and in the College Football Playoff against Ohio State and Alabama, the large majority of the Tigers' short-yardage personnel decisions seemed rooted in this philosophy:

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Leave your best offensive players on the field, even against three imposing and physical defensive fronts, and even in situations that call for as much beef as possible.

The topic is especially pertinent to yesterday's news that Garrett Williams suffered a torn ACL during spring practice. This is a big deal in large part because Williams' strength, point-of-attack blocking, was going to be a crucial element for a 2017 offense that will probably need to lean on its running game more after the departure of so many important playmakers.

The odds are Williams' availability for this season is in danger, because recovery from ACL surgery is a long and difficult process not just physically but mentally. But history has shown that exceptionally hard workers -- Deshaun Watson, Chad Kelly and Sam Cooper come to mind -- can recover more quickly than normal, and by all accounts Williams is in the category of exceptionally hard workers.

Regardless of how Williams' recovery unfolds, it's clear his injury adds concern to short-yardage situations -- an area that the Tigers' staff has identified as needing improvement after some struggles there last season.

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