Defense Shines in First Scrimmage


by - Correspondent -
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CLEMSON - With a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, the best offensive
line in recent memory and a wealth of high-profile freshmen at skill
positions, the Clemson offense has been a media darling through nearly two
weeks of camp.


Television cameras and tape recorders roll anytime a member of the Tiger
offense is willing to speak. And with the weapons Clemson appears to have
stockpiled, the talk usually flows freely.


Meanwhile, the defense toils in anonymity, watching its name appear in the
press only when the struggles of 2000 are mentioned.


Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring's unit constantly is reminded of the
1,300-plus yards and 85 total points it gave up in back-to-back losses to
Georgia Tech and Florida State, not to mention numerous other big plays down
the stretch which led to easy touchdowns for the opposition.


The fact that only four starters return from that squad and a whole new
defensive scheme has been installed are well known to Tiger fans everywhere.
And the fans, almost in unison, have resigned themselves to the idea that
victories in 2001 are going to be high-scoring affairs.


You can understand, then, why the defensive unit took such great pleasure in
Wednesday's first preseason scrimmage. Herring's squad held the Clemson
offense to just 279 yards on 58 plays, setting a standard head coach Tommy
Bowden would like to see repeated.


"I thought the offense looked like it had been reading its newspaper
clippings, while the defense played with a little more emotion," Bowden said.
"You can't just walk on the field and expect things to happen. You have to
execute.


"You hope the defense wants to carve out a name for themselves and play with
a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. They looked that way today."


The three-hour session was highlighted by sophomore free safety Marcus
Houskin's hit on senior wide receiver Matt Bailey. Houskins, who is battling
junior Eric Meekins for playing time at the position, caught Bailey with a
textbook hit, separating the receiver from his helmet and knocking him
unconscious for a few moments.


"It's not often you see a helmet explode into about 12 pieces, but that's
what happened," said Bowden. "I don't think we've ever had that happen before
today."


Clemson quarterbacks combined to complete just 15-of-35 passes for 190 yards.
Senior Woody Dantzler was 6-of-14 for 68 yards, while sophomore Willie
Simmons was 6-of-16 for 76 yards. Dantzler was the top rusher with 40 yards
on seven carries, but senior tailback Travis Zachery carried three times for
minus 5 yards.


All in all, Bowden came away pleased with the defensive performance and hopes
it's a foreshadowing of things to come.


"I'd feel more comfortable if we come out with the defense ahead in every
scrimmage," he said. "Saturday (the next scrimmage) I'd like to see them come
out and take it a step further."


NOTES


- Freshman Grant Oliver, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound offensive lineman from
Lexington, has left the team for personal reasons, Bowden announced. His
status will be reevaluated in January.


- The defense played without tackle Nick Eason, who missed the scrimmage with
a pulled hamstring. He is expected to return today.

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