Clemson vs VT Pregame Matchups


by - Correspondent -
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QUARTERBACKS


Clemson’s Brandon Streeter looks to have settled into the Tiger offense coming off last week’s school record 342 yard passing performance against Virginia. Streeter, at times appearing overwhelmed in the season opener against Marshall, looked confident and calm against the Cavaliers as he picked apart Virginia’s young secondary.


Much-heralded Virginia Tech freshman Michael Vick didn’t disappoint the Hokie faithful with his opening game performance against James Madison. Vick rushed for 54 yards and three touchdowns in only four attempts while passing for 110 yards and no interceptions. Vick had to leave the game following a spectacular dive into the endzone and missed last week’s game against UAB with an ankle injury. Senior Dave Meyer filled in for Vick and produced lackluster number in Tech’s 31-10 win over the Blazers.


Should Vick be able to perform Thursday night, he will be the first truly mobile quarterback the Tigers have faced this year. His scrambling ability could cause major problems for the Tiger defense. Streeter, if and only if he gets protection, should continue to improve and put up respectable numbers for the second week in a row.


ADVANTAGE: Even


RUNNING BACKS


While Clemson running backs have struggled, the Hokie backfield has been extremely effective, combining for 470 yards in the first two games. Shyrone Smith leads Virginia Tech with a 123ypg. average. While the Hokie backfield is stocked with game-breaking talent, Clemson running backs have shown very little spark. Javis Austin and Travis Zachery have both yet to break off a run for more than 15 yards in either of the two Tiger contests thus far.


ADVANTAGE: Virginia Tech


RECEIVERS


At this time last year, Clemson receivers struggled to catch a cold in the Tiger’s anemic offense. It is quite an understatement to say that their roles have increased under Rich Rodriguez’s “Indy” offense. Rod Gardner, Brian Wofford, and Mal Lawyer have caught 17, 13, and 9 passes, respectively, in the first two games. Gardner is a tall, strong receiver who appears to be on track for a career in the NFL. Wofford and Lawyer each look poised to make a big play at any given moment. Virginia Tech’s receiving corps is capable, led by Andre David and Ricky Hall, but not as utilized in Ricky Bustle’s more run-oriented offense.


ADVANTAGE: Clemson


OFFENSIVE LINE


It is well documented that Clemson is undersized and inexperienced in the trenches. While the Tiger’s pass protection was excellent against Virginia, Virginia Tech will be a much greater challenge. The Hokies’ offensive line is big, experienced, and talented.


ADVANTAGE: Virginia Tech


DEFENSIVE LINE


Tech’s Corey Moore could very well be the best defensive lineman in the country. The 212-lb. senior DE has already made seven tackles for loss, including four sacks, in the Hokies’ first two games. Fellow seniors Chris Cyrus, John Engleberger, and Carl Bradley join Moore up front in creating one of the strongest units Clemson will encounter all year. Clemson’s defensive line is strong, led by Terry Bryant, Damonte McKenzie, and Terry Jolly, but the Hokies boast a true superstar in Moore.


ADVANTAGE: Virginia Tech


LINEBACKERS


Sophomore linebacker Ben Taylor leads a steady group of Hokie linebackers. While the front four on the Virginia Tech defense gets most of the attention, the linebackers are consistent and effective. Clemson’s linebacker crew is young, fast, and aggressive. Keith Adams, a stocky and explosive 203-lb. sophomore, looks to be the next great Clemson linebacker. Braxton K. Williams and Chad Carson complete the youth movement at the position. The three will have their hands full trying to keep Michael Vick in check.


ADVANTAGE: Even


SECONDARY


The Sporting News ranked Clemson’s secondary the seventh best in the nation before the season. Thus far, the Tiger defensive backs have lived up to the ranking, effectively blanketing the Marshall and Virginia receiving corps. Sophomore cornerback Alex Ardley has been spectacular while Dextra Polite has been surprisingly solid at the other corner. All-American candidate Robert Carswell has continued his stellar play at free safety while Charles Hafley and DoMarco Fox have been solid at strong safety. Virginia Tech’s secondary has been strong, only giving up an average of 3.1 per pass in their first two games, but James Madison and UAB aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts.


ADVANTAGE: Clemson


SPECIAL TEAMS


When field goal kickers from either of the two teams come out on the field Thursday, look for fans to turn their heads and wince. Clemson’s is 3-6 on field goals with the three misses coming from within 39 yards. A missed PAT against Virginia simply further highlighted the fact that the Tigers desperately need a kicker they can depend on. Virginia Tech is 2-3 in field goals, but with a missed 29-yarder and two successful attempts coming from only 32 and 22 yards. Virginia Tech’s punting has been solid with Jimmy Kibble’s 43.8-yard average while Clemson’ Ryan Romano has only managed 36.8.


ADVANTAGE: Virginia Tech


COACHING


Chances are coaching will not lose this football game. Tommy Bowden and Frank Beamer are innovative and extremely capable coaches with talent-laden supporting casts. Look for a few tricks Thursday night as two talented offensive coordinators, Rich Rodriguez and Ricky Bustle, show what they can do.


ADVANTAGE: Even


OVERALL ANALYSIS


A national television audience, a packed stadium, and two strong football teams should make for quite a show. Clemson’s lack of a running game will allow the Hokie defenders to pin their ears back and go after the QB. If Clemson’s young offensive line can hold off Corey Moore and co., the Tigers could put up some points. If they don’t and Streeter is under constant pressure, things could get ugly.


PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27 Clemson 21

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