Dantzler: Blending the Past with the Present


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<font class=caption>Woody Dantzler leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing (91.7 yards a game) as well as passing efficiency.</font>
Woody Dantzler leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing (91.7 yards a game) as well as passing efficiency.

CLEMSON -- Football isn't brain surgery. The object for the offense is to
fool the defense.


Take the following statement written by the great John Heisman himself in
1903: "Each college now aims to have a style of play of its own...that no
one defensive formation will suffice to meet the attack."


Here is what he said in three simple words: confuse the defense.
With that in mind, Clemson has apparently dusted off the single-wing, an
offense last run on the college level in the 1960s. In the NFL it was last
used by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1947.


The single-wing, while not this simple, is an offense where the ball is
snapped directly to a man not under center. In the single-wing, the player
receiving the ball did more than a modern-day quarterback lined up in the
shotgun formation. He was as likely to take off and run over tackle as he
was to hand the ball off.


Clemson calls its offense the Indy offense, but put a leather helmet on
quarterback Woody Dantzler and you have a player that could have run the
single-wing with the best of them.


"Our starting tailback is our starting quarterback," said Clemson coach
Tommy Bowden.


In fact, Dantzler leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing (91.7 yards
a game) as well as passing efficiency. He's what many consider an example of
the modern breed of quarterback that can run the ball as well as throw it.
But maybe he's just blending some of the past with the present.


"Actually, you could see this coming because the defenses are getting so
much better with more athletic guys up front," said Dantzler. "Athletic
quarterbacks have always been around, but now we're starting to come of the
fog and get a little attention."


It takes a special athlete to do what Dantzler does, taking off through the
line as well as scrambling toward the sideline. Most coaches would cringe
with the most valuable piece of the offense getting hit every other play.
Dantzler, though, has a knack for avoiding the toughest of hits.


"It's all about knowing how to take hits," said Dantzler, who has missed one
practice his entire life. "If you take straight on shots, of course you're
going to get hurt. You have to know how to take a hit."


In the name of fooling the defense, Bowden is using Dantzler to the hilt.
He's the one guy on Clemson's offense that opposing defenses spend time
worrying about.


"If I put him in the shotgun, he's got great vision for the throwing game,"
said Bowden. "Then in the running game, when you do more sprint out and you
move your blocking and it widens them out and leaves a nice off tackle hole.
If you try to line up wide to contain him it creates a lane there."


Maybe the defenses will make this kind of quarterback extinct in a few
years. And it's certainly not the a style every quarterback can use. But
this modern single-wing is an offense whose time has come, at Clemson at
least.


"It's a whole lot of fun, especially when things are going well for you,"
said Dantzler. "It's a whole lot of fun."

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