McKenzie hopes to 'knock em out'

by - Correspondent -
LB McKenzie rushed for 1,566
yds his senior year in HS.

Damonte McKenzie can still hear the sound of "Navy Blue and Gold" in his mind.

Every time he ran off the field after a touchdown at War Memorial Stadium in Lake City he heard the song. Fifteen times during his senior year at Lake City High School he rambled into the end zone.

Then the music stopped.

He still wonders what it would be like to hear "Tiger Rag" after he scored a touchdown.

He thinks about it every time he slips into a daydream. "Almost every day," he said. "Still, to this day, I imagine what I could have done at fullback."

After rushing for 1,566 yards his senior year at Lake City, he arrived at Clemson as a fullback. He didn't stay there for long. The dreams he had then of scoring touchdowns for Clemson remain, though.

"I miss it a whole lot," he said. "Anytime you're used to putting the ball in the end zone and then you're not doing it anymore, it's tough."

He practiced a few times at fullback in August 1995, but an injury to Marvin Cross meant Clemson needed him more on the defensive line, where he also played at Lake City. He had 12 sacks during his senior year there.

A sack cheers him up. It gets his mind off what could have been.

"People are always asking me what I could have done at fullback," he said.

He's hoping to leave after this season with no regrets. McKenzie's career at defensive tackle has had its ups and downs. He played in seven games during his freshman year, was redshirted the next year and has started in four
games since then.

Now, he's got to figure out a new defensive scheme before he starts his senior year.

"We went from a read front defense to an attack front, which reminds you of high school football," he said. "It's hard to adjust after four years of reading keys."

One thing he notices is a difference in the intensity.

"Coach (Tommy) West was more conservative," he said. "Like coach Bowden is more hands on, knock 'em out kinda guy. Coach Bowden is into getting the job done anyway, anyhow. Knock 'em out. Coach Bowden is like if you knock 'em
out and you're penalized 15 yards, if he's knocked out, it's OK. Coach West would have never had that."

The defensive front will be attacking and trying to get past the offensive linemen instead of holding them up for the linebackers to make the play. The problem for defensive coordinator Reggie Herring is there aren't as many old heads like McKenzie this year to run the read defense effectively.

"The young guys that we've got would not have been ready for the read defense," said McKenzie. "They aren't that strong, but with the attack defense, it allows them to run off the ball."

The line is the strength of Clemson's defense. Still, McKenzie is the only senior. Terry Bryant, Terry Jolly and Gary Childress, the other starters on the line are all juniors.

"We're trying to create penetration on the play action and things like that," said Herring. "You want some momentum running at the quarterback so that you're not caught flat footed."

Herring has found it harder to find defensive linemen big and strong enough to hold up offensive linemen in a read defense.

"We'll take a smaller guy now," said he said. "We would like to have a big, fast guy, but there' not that many to pick from and the one's that are out there, everyone wants them. It's just tougher to find the guys you need to play a read defense, plus it gives the young kids a chance to play earlier. It takes time to mature enough to learn how to play in a read front defense. You find freshmen and
sophomores are quicker to play in an attack defense."

McKenzie is hoping the new offense will give him a chance to make more sacks. Maybe then he'll forget about those days of playing fullback.

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