Defensive line could hold key to stopping Tech's option


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele answered question after question Tuesday about how he plans to stop the vaunted option attack of Georgia Tech.

The Yellow Jackets are averaging right at 32 points per game and just over 328 rushing yards per game, so completely shutting down Paul Johnson’s option will indeed be a tall order, but a quick look back at last year’s Orange Bowl game shows the Tigers might have just the right pieces in place up front to do the job.

Georgia Tech played Iowa in that game, and the Hawkeyes and defensive end Adrian Clayborn shut down the Tech attack from the beginning. Georgia Tech managed just 143 yards rushing, scored 14 points [seven of which came on an interception return], had 156 total yards, didn’t get their first 1st down until midway through the second quarter, and didn’t complete a pass until the 43 minute mark.

Clayborn was a beast in the game, disrupting quarterback Josh Nesbitt the entire night, and finished with nine tackles and two sacks, which earned him MVP honors.

Steele was asked about Clayborn and the impact he had, and his eyes lit up as he recounted watching the game film.

“There were several plays in that film where the defensive end took the fullback, the quarterback and the pitch guy,” Steele said. “He was inside and outside the load, literally. On the very first play of the game, he hit the fullback in the earhole, got up and started sprinting toward the quarterback and the quarterback felt the end coming and he pitched it, and then he made the tackle for a two-yard gain.”

Junior defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is having a monster season – he leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss – and Steele said that Bowers made a difference in the first meeting between the Tigers and Jackets in 2009. In that game, Clemson forced Tech into seven three-and-outs; Tech only had 14 three-and-outs all season.

“I think in the first game, Da’Quan had a huge impact,” Steele said. “You watch that first game and he affected their running game all by himself. Jarvis [DT Jarvis Jenkins] was another that had a really effective game the first one year last year.

“They did not run to the field [the wide side] at all in the second game. They tried the first game and didn’t do it in the second game at all,” he said. “They ran probably six plays out there for about three or four yards and that was it. Everything else came into the boundary.”

Bowers said on Tuesday that he knows he can affect Tech again, but he knows he has to stay disciplined.

“This week is basically about discipline,” Bowers said. “This is about playing my alignment, my assignment and my techniques. I just have to read my keys and do my job. My job is to squeeze down on the tackle and take out the fullback. I have to crash in on him and make sure he’s down on every play. The moment I don’t do that, when I lose that discipline, is when he slips through and makes a touchdown. I have to rely on my teammates to do my job, and they rely on me to my job.”

Safety DeAndre McDaniel said he watched film on what Iowa, and Miami, did against Tech last season.

“Iowa did a great job against them, and so did Miami,” McDaniel said. “I think Clayborn had a great game against Tech. But it was simple; it wasn’t a new scheme or anything special. They just did their job and stopped those guys.

“For Iowa, I mean once you get a defensive line playing like that, it’s hard to run the option. Especially with those guys playing so aggressive up front. I think Da’Quan can have a great game, and so can [Andre] Branch and all the rest of those guys up front. We all want this victory. We want to win. And it will start up front.”

Steele was jokingly asked if he could get Clayborn flown in for this game, and he laughed and said that wasn’t necessary.

“Look, we have our own Iowa guys and we have our own Iowa guy,” he said. “We just have to make sure he knows when and where the pitch is going to be so he can hit all three of them.”

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