LSU says stopping Clemson run game key to controlling air attack

by - Senior Writer -
Eric Reid will have to help control Clemson's speedy wide receivers while also keeping an eye on Clemson's running game. (Grant Gutierrez, LSU Athletics)

ATLANTA, GA – Clemson’s explosive offense is known more for quarterback Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS Jr. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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and the explosive aerial attack he runs, along with receivers DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins and Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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, but LSU head coach Les Miles and safety Eric Reid said Friday that the SEC Tigers will have to pay attention to Clemson’s running game as well.

LSU’s defense is ranked 8th nationally in total defense, giving up just 296 yards per contest, while Clemson’s offense is ranked 9th nationally in gaining 518.3 yards per game. The passing game is a large part of what offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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does on offense, and the Tigers averaged 319.2 yards per game through the air this season.

However, the Tigers averaged 199.17 rushing yards per game, and Reid – one of the nation’s top safeties – said his job is made harder because of what Clemson can accomplish through the air and on the ground.

“I'm given the difficult task of defending both the pass and the run, and they have a very explosive running back,” Reid told TigerNet Friday. “He [Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Sr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 195
Moncks Corner, SC

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] is extremely quick. Before you know it he'll be around the edge and running up the sidelines. So for me and as far as the secondary, we have to play both roles. The safeties have to trust their keys if the line is blocking down, you have to field the run, you have to field the alley. But if there's pass protection you have to get back and help the corners out. Clemson is blessed with a bunch of players that are very fast. So we just gotta stay on top of our game, be just as fast as they are and make quick decisions and make the right decisions.”

Miles echoed Reid’s comments.

“Anytime you have a quarterback that has mobility that they have and a thousand-yard back, the running game is a key piece to it,” Miles said Friday. “And there will be a significant piece of that game plan that will be devoted to stopping the run.”

Miles said that Boyd poses a potential problem because he can make plays when the protection breaks down and the defense has to choose when to all-out rush and rush with only four down linemen.

“It has to be the combination of both. There has to be a point in time where you keep him in the pocket and you play coverage and there's an opportunity to rush the passer with four guys,” he said. “I think anytime a quarterback can pull it down and go get yards, there's an added responsibility to those guys that are rushing the ball, rushing the passer. And so, again, it's something that you have to do with more than one strategy. You must rush the passer. You must contain him when you step back and let him throw it and to have coverage. And, yeah, he does pose a nice threat.”

As a safety, however, Reid said he is looking forward to the matchup with Clemson’s group of receivers.

“They have an explosive group of core receivers. I can venture to say they're up there with one of the best we've faced all year,” he said. “And they have a great quarterback who does a great job of putting the ball where they can catch it. It's a challenge to our secondary and defense as a whole to stay tight in coverage and make sure we can bring them some passes.”

Miles said LSU will have to do a good job of disguising coverages and getting pressure on Boyd in order to stop the Clemson attack.

“Yeah, it's a great challenge anytime you play that kind of attack,” Miles said. “A quarterback that can throw and very, very explosive receivers, you have to handle it in a variety of ways. Certainly coverage, changing coverage and an opportunity to rush the passer. So, again, great challenge. We enjoy the matchup.”

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