Clemson D-line taking their game to another level

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Clemson D-line taking their game to another level

CLEMSON – To those in Lane Stadium during Clemson’s 23-3 victory over Virginia Tech two weeks ago, it might have appeared that a few of the offensive linemen had headaches, considering how much they were shaking their heads after every play.

As it turns out, they did have headaches, and their names were Andre BranchAndre Branch
RS Sr. Defensive End
#40 6-5, 260
Richmond, VA

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, Brandon ThompsonBrandon Thompson
Sr. Defensive Tackle
#98 6-2, 310
Thomasville, GA

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, Rennie MooreRennie Moore
RS Sr. Defensive Tackle
#94 6-3, 265
Saint Marys, GA

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, Malliciah GoodmanMalliciah Goodman
Jr. Defensive End
#97 6-4, 280
Florence, SC

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, Tyler ShatleyTyler Shatley
RS So. Defensive Tackle
#43 6-3, 295
Icard, NC

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, Corey CrawfordCorey Crawford
Fr. Defensive End
#93 6-5, 280
Columbus, GA

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and Kourtnei BrownKourtnei Brown
Gr. Defensive End
#90 6-6, 255
Charlotte, NC

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Clemson’s defensive line, which registered just two sacks during the season’s first three games, has come alive in recent weeks. The opposing offenses had a lot to do with the lack of numbers – Wofford threw it just eight times and Auburn rushed it 38 times while passing just 25 times.

However, opposing offenses are now realizing they have to score themselves in order to keep up with Clemson’s high-scoring attack, and are taking to the air more. Two weeks ago against Tech, senior defensive Andre Branch had a breakout game with a career-high 11 tackles and a career-high four sacks; last week, it was Goodman who found his way into the backfield – with six tackles, his first sack and a forced fumble - because Branch was getting chipped by the running backs and tight ends as well as dealing with the offensive lineman.

“I’ve been getting double-teamed the whole season,” Branch said earlier this week. "If you’re a good player, you’ve got to expect it. And someone’s got to be open if I’m getting double-teamed. Someone’s going to be wide open or have one-on-one, and it’s tough to block anyone on our line one-one-one.”

Senior defensive tackle Brandon Thompson is also having a stellar season, and Branch said it’s difficult for offenses to figure out who to double.

“Me and Brandon, we get double-teamed every game,” Branch said. “If you double-team me and Brandon, it’s going to be tough for anybody to block Rennie and Malliciah one-on-one. They tried to double-team and triple-team me this week, and Malliciah dominated. That’s how I look at it. It’s anybody’s game. It doesn’t matter what they do. If they double-team Malliciah, I’ll do good. If they double-team Brandon, then Rennie is going to do good.”

Goodman said Branch let him know early during the Boston College game that the onus was on him.

“Branch was like, ‘I’m being double-teamed, triple-teamed, chipped by the running back, and I’m like, ‘I’m single-blocked over here,’” Goodman said. “I guess they put more emphasis on him. It opened up for me. But they [opponents] don’t know where the pressure is going to come from, because it’s coming from everywhere.”

Goodman said he has been waiting for his chance to finally put up some solid numbers, even though he feels like he has been ‘close.’

“It was kind of frustrating, but I had to stay patient and just play my part,” he said. “Stats are not everything about football; it is doing your job and helping the defense. I got close in the Troy game - I hit them a couple times, but didn’t get the sack, got a little frustrated. I just moved on.

“As defensive linemen, we love to get sacks, we love pressuring the quarterback, and we hadn’t done that the first three games. We just started working on those things, getting off the ball. Where’s our pass rush going to be, how are we going to attack those guys?”

Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said this week that Branch and Goodman are putting up the numbers on the outside because of what Moore and Thompson are doing on the inside.

“They have got to block Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore, that’s the problem,” Swinney said. “Those defensive ends get all the glory, the girlfriends, but Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore are the heart of our defense. If you don’t block them, you’re in trouble. They’re a load.”

Swinney said that Thompson is playing like one of the best players in the country, including adding pass-rushing into his repertoire.

"I don’t think there’s a guy in the country playing better than Brandon Thompson,” he said. “He is a dominant, dominant player. I’m glad he’s on our team. You turn on the film, and if you’re an opposing coach, ‘Oh my gosh, by Wednesday we feel like we might get two first downs.’ He’s worked so hard on that part of it. In pass rush, he’s a factor.”

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