CLEMSON - The following is a refrain Clemson fans should get accustomed to
seeing and hearing:
As the defensive line goes, so goes the rest of the defense.
The Tigers' defense regularly was torched over the final five games of the
2000 season, including forgettable back-to-back embarrassments at the hands
of Georgia Tech and Florida State in which Reggie Herring's unit gave up a
combined total of 1,328 yards and 85 points.
Much of the damage came via the pass, and the memory of Clemson's defensive
backs desperately playing catch up is one the coaching staff would like to
But had the Tigers been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks with its
defensive line, perhaps the results would have been different. As it was, the
likes of George Godsey and Chris Weinke standing flat-footed in the pocket,
waiting for what seemed like forever for a receiver to come open, is a sight
Tommy Bowden and his staff hope they can remedy in 2001.
The changes have been dramatic, if not necessary.
Nick Eason, a defensive end a year ago, now finds himself a 285-pound speed
rushing tackle. He's joined inside by defensive tackle Jovon Bush (6-5, 300),
a senior with plenty of experience but about whom Bowden recently said, "His
effectiveness hasn't matched his size."
Bryant McNeal (6-5, 230) and Khaleed Vaughn ((6-4, 260) man the defensive
The revamped front four gets its first shot at redemption today, when the
2001 season opens against the University of Central Florida and its mammoth
"If (UCF's) offense can maintain long drives, at 300-some pounds you can
fatigue a young, smaller defensive line," Bowden said. "That will be a factor
if they can keep the ball."
To keep it, the Golden Knights must throw effectively. Quarterback Ryan
Schneider was ninth in the nation in pass efficiency a year ago, partly
because of his pass protection.
Central Florida averages 317 pounds across its offensive line, led by right
tackle Steve Edwards (6-5, 350). Joining Edwards up front are right guard
Garrett McCray (6-4, 315), center W Womerford (6-4, 320), left guard Taylor
Robertson (6-6, 310) and left tackle Brian Huff (6-7, 290).
The unit's strength is protecting the quarterback in the pocket, Bowden said.
"That's all they do," he said. "We move the pocket with boots, waggles,
nakeds, misdirections. They do all drop-back. So those 300-pound guys, their
technique is pretty good. They wouldn't probably attempt to do what we do,
but when they throw the ball they're good protectors.
"I'm anxious to see how we rush the passer. That's going to be critical,
getting pressure with a four-man rush. That makes the secondary's job that
Clemson vs. UCF Pregame Notes
Date: September 1, 2001
Site: Clemson Memorial Stadium
Expected Attendance: 75,000
Tickets: Available at $25 for adults, $6 for students high school age and under
Live TV: None
Series Record: First meeting
Clemson Rankings: 18th in USA Today, 19th in Associated Press
Out-WR Kevin Youngblood, broken leg, out for season;
Out-LB Altroy Bodrick, torn ACL, out for season
Lineup News: Eric Meekins is expected to start at strong safety;
Gary Byrd will start at left tackle on offense.
Color and Pageantry: Clemson's annual Parade of Athletes will take
place prior to the game. Athletes in all Clemson sports will enter
the stadium prior to the game. Also, the 2000-01 IPTAY Athlete of
the Year award will be presented. Rod Gardner, starting wide
receiver for the Washington Redskins, is the recipient and is unable
to attend. Clemson wide receiver Kevin Youngblood will accept on
his behalf. Clemson's 1951 team will be honored at halftime.
Other Notes: Clemson punter Wynn Kopp has been named to the
preseason Ray Guy Award list. The award is presented at year's end to
the top punter in the nation. Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler is
one of 20 preseason candidates for the Johnny Unitas Award that honor
is given to the top senior quarterback in the nation. Clemson now has
six different players on preseason award lists (Travis Zachery-Doak
Walker; Chad Carson-Butkus; Kyle Young-Lombardi; Will
Merritt-Lombardi; Woodrow Dantzler, Unitas and Davey O'Brien; Wynn