Herring Shuffles Defensive Deck


by - Correspondent -
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John Leake (45) is now the starter at the star position and Braxton Williams (48) moves to SAM linebacker .

CLEMSON - Altroy Bodrick's season-ending knee injury created a rash of
position shuffling at Clemson Monday, and worsened the Tigers' already
precarious lack of defensive depth.


Defensive coordinator Reggie Herring announced the flurry of moves after
Monday's morning practice, and matter-of-factly stated the obvious where his
unit is concerned.


"This is about the last move we can afford to make," he said. "This is about
the quickest bunch we've ever had, but we lost a 4.2-4.3 (40-yard dash)
linebacker in Bodrick. It hurts, but how much it hurts will depend on
Braxton."


AUDIO
Reggie Herring on defensive changes.


Braxton, of course, is senior Braxton K. Williams. Having fallen behind
sophomore John Leake at the star safety position, Williams has been given a
new lease on life, of sorts, by being moved back into the starting lineup in
place of Bodrick at the "sam" linebacker.


Leake, whom Herring called "the best football player on our team over the
last two weeks," has been compared by his coach to the likes of former
Clemson stars Keith Adams and Anthony Simmons.


"He vertical jumps 47 inches, he's a tremendous blitzer and has great closing
ability," said Herring. "He plays with an attitude and a vengeance. He has
that mentality that he wants to make every play. It's contagious...it would
be nice to get all 11 guys playing like that."


Junior Rodney Feaster will continue to backup the "sam" linebacker, but the
movement of Williams means true freshman Eric Sampson in now No. 2 at the
star safety. Another true freshman, Mo Fountain, is now the backup to
sophomore Khaleed Vaughn at right defensive end.


The movement of two true freshmen to second on the depth chart has the
coaching staff concerned, as one might expect. But Herring and head coach
Tommy Bowden have little choice in the matter.


"They're going to have to go play probably 25-30 snaps in the first game,"
Bowden said. "You just have to go with it. Usually you eliminate those kind
of problems the longer you've been there. I've only been here 2 1/2 years.
Hopefully by my fourth or fifth year there won't be any true freshman on the
second team."


In one other defensive move, Herring announced that sophomore Marcus Houskin
has moved ahead of junior Eric Meekins at No. 1 free safety.


NOTES


- Bowden announced on offensive position change Monday. True freshman Eric
Coleman, who only reported to camp last week because of a holdup through the
NCAA Clearinghouse, has been shifted to left tackle.


Coleman currently is working at second team because of recent injuries to
tackles Gary Byrd (ankle) and Derrick Brantley (knee). Both players are
expected to be back in action by the end of the week. That leaves Akil Smith
and Nate Gillespie working at starting tackles for the moment.


- Bowden went out of his way to praise senior tailback Travis Zachery, both
privately to the team and later to the media.


"He's had a really good preseason," Bowden said. "He's not missed half a
second of practice. As a senior he's a man on a mission. I'd be surprised if
he didn't have a big year. If we had more guys practice like him we'd be in
good shape."


- Bowden on Herring, whose mobility is limited to a golf cart and walking
boot as he awaits surgery on his torn left Achilles tendon.


"He's learned how to yell louder," Bowden joked. "He sure can't jump as high."


Herring is scheduled to have surgery to repair the tear on Wednesday, but is
not expected to miss any games or practice.

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