Leroy Hill Ready for High Expecations

by - Correspondent -
Leroy Hill was the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl last season.
Leroy Hill was the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl last season.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- High expectations.

That's what Leroy Hill and the rest of the Clemson Tigers have for the 2004 football season, and they will not have it any other way.

"We strive for a 10-win season and playing for a national championship," said the Butkus Award candidate to the media at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center last Sunday. "We have the potential to be a good team." Whether or not Clemson can reach those expectations will depend on Hill and the rest of the Tiger defense. Head coach Tommy Bowden has repeatedly said in the eight months since the Tigers' 4-0 finish to end last year that the aggressive style of play from his defense had more to do with the win streak than anything the offense did.

Clemson held Florida State, Duke, South Carolina and Tennessee to just 48 points and six touchdowns in the four games. Florida State and Tennessee failed to gain 50 yards rushing, while all four opponents were held to 2.64 yards per carry.

"It was all about preparation," said Hill about the defenses turn around.

"We weren't prepared for Wake Forest, we were for Florida State.

"I'm a believer in a week's preparation. I don't go with this, 'It was an overnight change.' It is not that we just got better. We already had the talent. We had the same talent from Wake Forest to Florida State. We just prepared better and had a better game plan." Hill, however, admitted the win over Florida State did give the Tigers the shot in the arm they had been searching for.

"Of course, it boosted us up when we beat Florida State," said the All-ACC linebacker. "But we were ready for each team after that." Now the Tigers turn their attention to fall practice, set to start on Aug. 6 and then Wake Forest ‹ the season opener.

The Demon Deacons had their way with the Clemson defense last November, racking up 406 total yards, including 321 on the ground. In the last two years, Wake Forest's mis-direction offense has totaled more than 700 yards rushing against the Tigers.

"We're going to have to have a good game plan for Wake Forest," said Hill.

"They whipped our behind last year.

"They're a hard team to play and even a harder team to prepare for. I rather prepare for FSU than them any day." Wake Forest wide receiver Jason Anderson is one of the Wake Forest players Clemson will try to shut down. Last year Anderson did not catch a pass against the Tigers primarily because the Demon Deacons threw the ball just eight times.

"For whatever the reason, they have had a problem with our offense," said the senior. "We haven't thrown the ball as much against them because we haven't needed to.

"We know the pressure will be on us, but I personally like the pressure.

They will have 90,000 people there wearing orange and purple, and the mark will be on our back." Hill hopes that target on Wake Forest's back will help keep the excitement going in Death Valley, which has obviously carried over from last year's final four games.

"Clemson is all about football," he said. "Even if we go 1-10 everybody is going to be ready for football season, so it is a little more (exciting) this year. Everyone seems to be ready for that first game.

"The regular students pat you on the back whenever you go out. It is crazy right now so I can't wait for the season to start and see how the fans are going to help us out." As for Anderson, he just doesn't want to hear, "Tiger Rag," Clemson's fight song.

"I'm tired of that Clemson fight song," he said. "I heard it so many times the last time we were there it made me sick.

"We heard it so much that day, I believe I know it better than they do."

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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