Preview: NC State Defense
The Wolpack defense under Reggie Herring comes into the game the number 2 defense in the country. This defense has played well, but is not without its weaknesses. Herring's schemes are gonna give Clemson chances to make plays. Many are worried about Herring being familiar with Clemson's offense, but I contend with so many changes in the offense since Herring has left, it is Clemson who has the advantage here. Herring knew the offense with Woody Dantzler at the helm, while Herring's defense has not changed at all. The Wolfpack will began blitzing when they get off the bus, and will not stop until the final whistle. The front four has allowed this unit to be very aggressive.
Mario Williams and Manny Lawson are man-childs. Clemson may have to keep a tight end on one, and block the other with a running back. They are explosive pass rushers, but Clemson may be able to take advantage of the aggressiveness. Williams and Lawson have combined for nine sacks on the year. Both do a very good job of getting their hands and batting balls down at the line of scrimmage. On the inside the Tigers will have to contain John McCargo and Demarcus Tyler. McCargo and Tyler have combined for 6 tackles for loss this year. The ends are the main focus of the Wolfpack's front four. Clemson could use the same quarterback draw that was effective against FSU to counteract the overaggressive ends.
The linebackers are led by Oliver Hoyt, who leads the team in tackles. Patrick Thomas is the second leading tackler on the team and will get the start at strongside linebacker. Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay will get the nod at weakside linebacker. These linebackers have benefited from Herring's aggressive schemes. The trio has combined for 28 tackles for loss. Blitzing will come on every play from this group, and Clemson needs to be able to pick up this blitz enough to allow Charlie Whitehurst to hit his receivers downfield.
The Wolfpack secondary is the number one pass defense in the country. However, I caution this number is misleading. Nebraska had the number two rush defense in the country coming into last week's game against Kansas State. Kansas State then went out and ripped them for 280 yards rushing. North Carolina and Miami are the only two teams this defense has faced that were effective throwing the ball, both of which defeated State. This has only intercepted three passes, and were ripped apart by Brock Berlin last week. Lamont Reid and Dovonte Edwards will be the starters on the corners, while Andre Maddox and Marcus Hudson will start at the safety positions. This is the area of State's defense, Clemson is going to have to exploit to win the ball game on Saturday.