McNeal Coming to Clemson With Chip on Shoulder


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CLEMSON -- Vic Koenning isn't happy that the national media has got Reggie McNeal mad. The Texas A&M signal-caller is upset with the media after several stories have stated, though he is talented, he still is just the second best quarterback in the state of Texas.

"He's coming in here with a chip on his shoulder," said Clemson's defensive coordinator.

Ever since high school, McNeal has been in the shadow of Texas Longhorns quarterback Vince Young. With the Aggies coming into Clemson for this Saturday's 8 p.m. kickoff, Koenning knows McNeal will love nothing more than to use Death Valley as his stage to prove them wrong.

"It can cause you heartburn thinking about it," Koenning said. "I don't know if there has been anyone who has contain him. Tennessee really didn't contain him as much as he hurt himself with early turnovers.

"If we can contain him, we will be in the vast minority who has done so." Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said stopping McNeal will be a huge task for the Tigers because the senior quarterback can hurt a defense in so many different ways. If the Tigers try to limit his running ability, he will pick them apart with the pass. Try to blitz, and he will make a play happen with his feet.

"If you blitz him and you don't tackle him in the open field, then he is going to go a long way," said Bowden. "When you blitz, generally you lock everyone up in man coverage. The defensive backs are going to be running down field with their heads turned away. "You don't really want to (blitz) unless you have someone out there who you're sure will make the tackle." This is what the Clemson defense couldn't do last year. Early against A&M, the Tigers came at McNeal with different versions of the blitz, but when they failed to wrap him up, he squirted away for big gains. He scrambled away from the Clemson defense for 129 yards on 17 carries.

"You can't ask an inexperienced player to do something when the ACC Player of the Year (Leroy Hill) couldn't do it at times," said Koenning. "We are going to have to contain him somehow, but how we do that, I don't know." McNeal never really was contained his junior season. He averaged 58.9 yards rushing and 232.6 yards a game passing and was the only quarterback in the NCAA to average those numbers.

In 2004, he set school records for a season and career 300-yard total offense games, season passing and total offense. Because of last year's success, the senior is in range of A&M's career marks in total offense, passing yards and rushing yards by a quarterback.

"He is a good quarterback, but we can't totally focus on him," said Clemson safety Jamal Fudge. "They have a good running back and they have receivers that will hurt us if we just totally concentrate on (McNeal)." Fudge said playing against McNeal reminds him of another famous quarterback who could do both ‹- of course he is talking about former Clemson quarterback Woodrow Dantzler.

"He and Woody are a lot alike, but he isn't as big physically as Woody is," Fudge said. "Woody would take a linebacker on and try to break tackles, where McNeal is going to try and juke you and get you to miss." Which is why Bowden and Koenning think it's imperative Clemson try to wrap him when he is in the open field.

"We just had too many missed tackles last year," said Bowden. "I'm more concerned about what we are going to do, than what Texas A&M will do. If we make those tackles this year, not have any dropped passes or turnovers, than we will have a shot." Koenning said he mostly likely will not use a spy to contain McNeal because he doesn't feel like he has anyone that can match his speed, especially if he gets to the corners." "What we have to do is use a collective group of guys to flush him to a certain area and then all who is available converge on him and make the tackle." But the one thing the Tigers don't want to do is make McNeal mad.

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