Clemson University

Clemson’s 665-pound ‘fridge’ package has gone from fun to a force

Clemson DC Brent Venables previews matchup with Duke

Tigers face Blue Devils Saturday night
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Tigers face Blue Devils Saturday night

Clemson’s “jumbo package” or “fridge package” has evolved throughout the 2018 season and has turned into an effective short-yardage weapon for the Tigers.

Early in the season, defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence were brought in near the goal line to serve as lead blockers for Clemson’s running backs. But the past three weeks,it has been only Wilkins and Lawrence in the backfield in the jumbo formation.

The results are hard to argue with.

Wilkins scored on a touchdown run out of the package against Florida State, and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney joked that it was a way to keep Wilkins happy after he had begged for an opportunity to play quarterback.

The following week Lawrence rushed for a score against Louisville out of the package, taking the handoff from fullback and plowing into the end zone from 2 yards out. Lawrence scored easily on the play.

Then, this past week against Boston College, the game was still very much in doubt when Wilkins and Lawrence checked into the game with the Tigers trailing 7-3 late in the first quarter and facing fourth-and-goal from the 2.

Trevor Lawrence took the snap, faked the handoff to Wilkins and found tight end Milan Richard wide open in the back of the end zone.

The score improved Clemson to 3-for-3 scoring touchdowns in short yardage situations with only Lawrence and Wilkins in the backfield.

“We don’t just do it it to do it. Next year, if you asked me to bet that we would have a fridge package, I bet you we wouldn’t,” Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “But if it’s advantageous for you ... those guys are very highly skilled guys. They’re very athletic. They’re very smart. So it’s not too much for them.”

Wilkins and Lawrence have had fun with the package throughout the past few weeks. Yes, Wilkins would love to score more touchdowns, but he also doesn’t mind being a distraction.

Before the season, it was hard to imagine a scenario where Lawrence and Wilkins would line up in the i-formation and faking a handoff to Wilkins would lead to the defense completely going for the fake, but that is exactly what happened against BC.

“I’ve showed my abilities and people know that I’m a threat,” Wilkins joked after Saturday’s win. “I’m in the scouting report now, ‘Hey, watch 42 when he gets back there.’”

While Wilkins made the statement smiling, the jumbo package is definitely something that defenses are having to prepare for.

And Clemson has plenty of ways to score out of the formation.

“With any package that you have, you want to kind of keep it honest. Same thing, if we are going to run inside zone, we are going to have complimentary plays off of it so that you just can’t hone in on the inside zone,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “You got those two guys that are just special. They come over, they got a smile on their face, and they’re all asking for the ball. Dexter want his touches, Christian wants his touches. But more than anything, they want to do whatever it takes for us to be successful, and they bring a lot of energy. I think the guys up front, they appreciate it because it’s a big boy getting the opportunity to touch the ball.”

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