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Clemson Football

Clemson's offensive outlook heading into the matchup against Florida State

September 18, 2023

The Clemson offense could be peaking at the right time. Heading into a matchup with significant College Football Playoff implications against No. 4 Florida State, the team has outscored opponents 90-14 in its past six quarters.

Starting quarterback Cade Klubnik‍ has steadily improved. He threw three touchdowns and finished with an 89.8 quarterback rating (QBR) against Florida Atlantic University (FAU), easily the highest of the four games he's started at Clemson.

Cade Klubnik, Clemson quarterback.

"I've certainly seen him grow in a lot of ways in the past five quarters," said Clemson offensive coordinator Garrett Riley. "Some of his 'wow' plays have been with guys in his face. It's a good characteristic, especially as a young quarterback."

While Klubnik has inspired optimism in recent starts against Charleston Southern and FAU, Florida State presents the biggest challenge of his young Clemson career. Linemen Jared Verse, Braden Fiske, and Fabien Lovett are all projected NFL Draft picks. Verse is the No. 6 prospect in the latest Pro Football Focus draft rankings.

"They are explosive in all areas," Riley said. "I'm super impressed watching them on tape. They fly around on all levels, and they will present many challenges for us."

The Tigers are unranked in the AP Poll and are 2.5-point underdogs at home against FSU. The recent strides on offense give the Tigers hope they can pull off the upset.

Clemson is tied for fifteenth in FBS rushing offense. Running backs Will Shipley‍ and Phil Mafah‍ are touted as a premier running back tandem in college football. They have averaged more than six yards per carry and combined for four total touchdowns.

“I’ve had to lean on them,” Riley said. “They’re certainly going to continue to get a lot of mileage.”

Clemson's confidence at the wide receiver position has grown since completing passes to 12 or more receivers in the past two games. The emergence of sophomore Adam Randall‍ and true freshman slot receiver Tyler Brown‍ helped the new Garrett Riley offense take shape.

Randall led the team in receiving yards against FAU, while Brown scored a pair of touchdowns and cemented his status as a deep threat.
Tyler Brown, Clemson wide receiver.

"He's mature, the moment's not too big for this kid," Riley said of Brown. "When he's out there, good things happen."

Riley noted that while Brown and sophomore Antonio Williams‍ - the team’s leading returning receiver - are often used in the slot position, he now feels comfortable moving them onto the field simultaneously. The change would push Williams to the boundary and add another dynamic component to the offense.

"At the end of the day, who's going to give us the best chance to win," Riley said. "We certainly have flexibility within our system to move people and get them in the right spot."

The Tigers will rely even more on underclassmen receivers against FSU after Cole Turner‍ suffered a season-ending injury last week.

Turner and Randall have been battling for a starting spot and were listed as “co-starters” on Clemson’s initial depth chart. The team expects Randall to fill Turner's void.

"It's very upsetting, tough for Cole, and a tough loss," Klubnik said. "Adam had a heck of a game. He made some big plays. I feel so confident in the guys we have behind Cole."

The success of the run game and newfound wide receiver depth has helped Klubnik and the offense round into form before Clemson’s biggest game of the season. Only time will tell if the Tigers have improved enough to knock off an electric FSU squad in a battle for ACC dominance.

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