Defensive Veterans Ready to Attack
Twenty-three year-old senior Damonte McKenzie, a 6-2 280 lb. defensive tackle who looks like he could derail a locomotive with one arm, says he’s been getting teased at school.
“A lot of the younger guys pick on me in practice. They call me old man, granddaddy, and say I’ve been here 88 years. It’s pretty weird because I used to do the same thing,” he says, grinning.
McKenzie, along with fellow senior starters DoMarco Fox at strong safety, Dextra Polite at corner, and junior Robert Carswell at free safety are expected to anchor the Clemson defense heading into the ’99 season. Defense proved to be perhaps the only bright spot during last year’s dismal 3-8 campaign. The Tigers finished ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense and look to better that performance this year.
“I love it because we have great athletes up front who can pressure the quarterback and we have great athletes on the corners who can make the big plays and then there’s me in the middle. I feel it’s more conducive to be ranked even higher in the nation than we were last year,” says Carswell.
A more aggressive defensive philosophy heading into 1999 has the Tiger defenders eager to get the season underway.
“I feel really good about the season. This more aggressive defensive scheme we’re in allows defensive lineman to make more tackles. I’m anxious to get out and play,” says McKenzie.
Carswell says that the attack first mentality has rejuvenated the entire unit.
“We’re having fun on defense. We’re attacking and that’s the only way I feel you can play defense,” he says.
“We’re confident and ready to get the season under way.”