Clemson Receivers Presenting Problems for Defenses

by - Correspondent -
72-yard touchdown catch for Airese Currie against Furman.

CLEMSON - With Clemson's wide receiving corps playing better than ever through four games, opposing defensive coordinators now are charged with finding ways to slow them down. The most effective way to cripple any passing game is to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Rattle the guy throwing the ball and everything from timing to nerves can be disrupted. So far, the Tigers' offensive line has done a superb job of protecting quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, especially since head coach Tommy Bowden has reinstated the no-huddle, shotgun formation. Given time to throw - and a more aggressive game plan to follow - Whitehurst repeatedly has found Kevin Youngblood, Airese Currie and Derrick Hamilton for big gains. So what's a defensive coordinator to do? "If it's a two-deep scheme with a corner and a guy coming from over the top, you have a two-on-one," Bowden said following Thursday's practice. "Nobody wants to play (against) two-on-one...And in a traditional I-formation offense, with a tight end and two wide receivers, they can do that on both outside guys. Then they're playing you four-on-two." Clemson beats that sort of defensive alignment by eschewing the I-formation for the shotgun, no-huddle spread which can, at times, employ up to five wide receivers. But even in a set with just three wideouts, Clemson's passing game can befuddle the two-deep scheme should a defensive coordinator choose to try and take away the outside receivers. "Now you take a guy like Derrick Hamilton and put him (in the slot)," Bowden said. "Then you've got him working on a linebacker or a nickel back. It gets harder (for defenses) because now you've got three deadly guys." Such is the luxury of having talent and depth at the position. And it gets even better, or worse, depending on which side you're on. Because The Big Three have been so productive early on, defensive coordinators have been forced to try and defend them with non-traditional schemes. But on this team, at least so far, even slowing that group hasn't been enough. "It gets more difficult (for defenses) when Kevin is productive in games, Airese is productive in games and Derrick is productive in games," Bowden said. "All the sudden you go to sleep on a guy like Tony Elliott, and he catches five balls vs. Georgia Tech." NOTES - Duane Coleman likely will start at tailback Saturday at Maryland. Bowden said Coleman's rust from sitting out a year appears to be wearing off, and his running has gotten stronger each game. "He had that nice run against Middle Tennessee, then I think a 25-yarder at Georgia Tech," Bowden said. "Now we need to break that 50-yarder." Bowden said he and his staff will decide today whether to continue using a rotating system at tailback, with Kyle Browning and Reggie Merriweather slotting behind Coleman. Senior Yusef Kelly continues to trail all three on the depth chart. - How much better is Clemson's depth on the offensive line this year than last year? Through four games this season the Tigers' second team offensive line has played 209 snaps. In 12 games a year ago, the second team only saw 218 snaps. - The Tigers continue to stay remarkably injury free. Nobody was in a green or yellow jersey again this week. Dan Scott covers Clemson University for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger. He also hosts SportsTalk from 9 a.m.-Noon, Monday-Friday, on WCCP-Fm, 104.9. Click here for Dan Scott's SportsTalk discussion board.

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