Option presents many challenges, including cut blocks

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Malliciah GoodmanMalliciah Goodman
Sr. Defensive End
#97 6-4, 270
Florence, SC

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’s facial expression turned from his usual smile to a frown in a split second earlier this week, all because he was asked a couple of questions.

How do you stop Georgia Tech’s option attack? How do you like the Jacket cut-blocking techniques?

Goodman and his defensive teammates face a stiff challenge this week in Paul Johnson’s option attack, an offense the Tigers have had precious little success in stopping. Goodman says the players know their assignments and have bought into the schemes presented by both Kevin SteeleKevin Steele
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
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and now Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Defensive Coordinator / Linebackers
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, but haven’t been able to take what they learned in practice to the field.

“I ask the same question all the time,” Goodman said earlier this week. “I really don’t know why [they can’t stop the option]. It just comes down to being really disciple. It comes down to playing your assignment and being real disciplined and not trying to do other people’s jobs and just focusing on yours. “

In addition to dealing with reading the play and maintaining gap control, defenders have the added pressure of worrying about blockers taking their knees out with the cut block, something Goodman said dislikes with a passion.

“That is the worst thing ever. It is just nagging. I dislike it,” Goodman said. “Words can’t describe how much I hate it. We just have to play the technique that Coach [Marion] Hobby is going to teach us. Most of the time he will put us in a position to defeat that block. Mostly you have to use your hands, trying to push them down and push their head down before they get to you. You have to push them down before they get to your knees, because they are going for your knees. That is why it is so big to use your hands.”

The defenders are taught to not only push the blocker’s helmet down to the ground, but then kick their legs while trying to stay close to line of scrimmage. Step back too far, and they are then out of the play.

“They teach you to donkey kick, and get back square,” Goodman said. “But that doesn’t get you off the line too much. You have time to recover and get back to the line. I am sure we are going to see it all week. It will be hard in practice, but in the game it will be easy and natural and we will be used to it.”

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the scout team will be cut blocking in practice this week.

“We’re going to go after it. That’s part of the risk and reward,” Venables said. “You don’t cut, you get mowed down on game day because you’re not ready for it. You cut, it’s a chance you have to take. Our guys need to feel it, they need to experience it.”

Defeating the block is just half of the battle, however. The player still has to maintain gap integrity, something Clemson hasn’t done against Georgia Tech.

“Looking at last year’s tape, we had guys in position to make plays and they didn’t do their job,” head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said this week. “Somebody has the quarterback every play. But he takes the pump fake and goes and takes the pitch guy, too. You have to play the option every single play. You can’t get bored with doing your job. They always have numbers, so you have to pay attention play after play.”

Goodman said he knows his job as a defensive end is to read quarterback Tevin Washington.

“Most of the time at my position, the read is the quarterback,” he said. “The quarterback to the dive. That is mostly all you have to do. From the first down to the third down, you have to play your key and your responsibility. I felt like last year we got lackadaisical stopping them until third down, and then they would hit us for a big play.”

Venables said the Jackets will be a “big challenge” and said his defense will have to play well in order to have success.

“It’s a big challenge. I think they’re really good. They’re leading the universe in rushing,” he said this week. “They do a terrific job. I think they’re incredibly well-coached, and they’re very precise in what they’re doing. They’re very disciplined, they’re very patient. They’re in four-down territory the whole game. They’ve got answers for what you’re doing. You’re not going to re-invent the wheel for these guys. They play with a high level of intelligence, they’re very competitive. And we and a lot of people haven’t had great success against them. It’s exciting, though, to watch tape of them every day to watch what’s at stake. To have success against them, we have to play very well.”

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