Tiger Defense Looks to Get Aggressive

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON, SC - Clemson's defense has a gauge to go by. Now it gets its first test of the 2000 season.

The Tiger defenders thoroughly dominated The Citadel in Saturday's season opener, pitching its first shutout since a 33-0 whitewashing of Furman in 1998, thus setting the barometer for the remaining 10 games.

Clemson's front seven, looking quicker than last year, swarmed the Bulldogs at every turn, holding their cross-state, Southern Conference foe to a mere 105 yards of total offense in the 38-0 blanking. The 'Dogs were held to seven first downs, with none coming on the ground.

It was the Tiger defense doing the flexing, not The Citadel's flexbone offense.

"We really focused on The Citadel. They kind of gave us a gauge to see where we're at," Clemson defensive end Terry Bryant said at Tuesday's press conference at the McFadden Building. "And now we know we have to step it up a notch, because we realize that there's more competition now. So we've got to pick it up and play a little harder."

That step up in competition begins this Saturday, when No. 17 Clemson faces the Missouri Tigers at 3:30 p.m. in Death Valley (ABC regional telecast). The Big 12 version of the Tigers poses a much different, yet familiar, threat than did The Citadel.

Unlike the Bulldogs' option-oriented attack, which forced Clemson to play an assignment-driven, disciplined brand of defense, Missouri - under new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit - will come at CU with a spread attack, featuring three and sometimes four wide receiver sets.

Sound familiar?

"They run a similar offense to what we run," said Bryant. "Really, it's going to be like practicing against our offense. We're going to know a lot of their tendencies."

Which will undoubtedly prove to be, at least to a certain extent, an advantage for CU.

"I think it's a big advantage," Bryant said of the familiarity factor. "We've been practicing against (the spread offense) for two years. We practiced against it all through the spring and all through two-a-days. We're more accustomed to seeing it. So we're going to be more confident and more relaxed playing against it because we see it every day in practice."

But there is one difference between the two offensive schemes: Size.

Missouri features a behemoth offensive line, tipping the scales at an average weight of 308 pounds per man, which includes massive 349-pound right tackle, Justin Bland. And that size allows Mizzou to do some different things from a scheme standpoint.

"They pose a potential problem simply because of size," said CU Head Coach Tommy Bowden of this week's opponent. "I'm sure they're going to close their splits and zone block everything... That's the style they choose. It's a different style (from Clemson), but it's one that I'm sure a lot of people run with success."

But Clemson's defensive front can do one thing differently than it did last week: It can pin its ears back, attack, play aggressive and go after MU starting quarterback Kirk Farmer, something the front line couldn't do playing assignment ball against The Citadel.

"We'll be more aggressive," Bryant said with a slight grin. "Last week, we had to play under control. This week, we've just got to cut loose and get after the quarterback.

"It's back to the attack style."
Brad Davis is the asst sports editor of Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Daily Messenger.
His columns can be read at www.dailyjournalmessenger.com.

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