Tigers Expect Aggressive Wolfpack Defense

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - Defensive coordinators putting together a game plan designed to contain Clemson quarterback Woody Dantzler, which theoretically then limits the effectiveness of the offense, have two recent models to observe.

They have Virginia's 26-24 win over the Tigers, in which the Cavs played a soft, read-and-react style of defense that kept Dantzler boxed in.

Or they have the Georgia Tech film, a game in which Dantzler's running lanes were wide open because of the Yellow Jackets' up-the-field aggressiveness with their defensive line. Woody ran. Woody threw. Clemson won in overtime, 47-44.

So which model will North Carolina State head coach Chuch Amato choose to follow?

Clemson offensive coordinator Brad Scott is banking on a little of both.

"It's not Chuck Amato's personality and style to be soft and contain," Scott said. "He's get up the field hard, react and go. That's one reason they're good on defense now is because they put a lot of pressure on you.

"They'll try to contain Woody, but it will up-field and aggressive, trying to get him to step up in the pocket. That's what I'm expecting. I'm not expecting him to sit back, be scared and play soft."

The Wolfpack's strength is their ability to compliment that aggressive line play with linebackers and secondary spots with great speed. The combination has paid off:

N.C. State (3-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) is ranked No. 17 nationally in points allowed per game (15.5) and No. 10 in passing yards allowed (150.5).

"They play very hard. That's the first thing you always look for on a great defense," Scott said. "And because they run well enough underneath they don't give up a lot of freebies. They cover down well on backs coming out of the backfield. They can run stride for stride with you."

Of State's eight returning defensive starters, the two most likely to make the big play are linebacker Levar Fisher and defensive end Corey Smith. Fisher is the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, while Smith has caused six fumbles this season by himself.

Yet for all the defensive success the Wolfpack has had to this point, the very nature of Amato's aggressive style appears to play into Clemson's strength:

Quite simply, make Dantzler a dual threat and watch the points pile up.

Recent history suggests a high-scoring game between the teams, though as in many other instances this season Clemson's (3-1, 1-1) banged-up defense likely will have the final say in the team's fortunes.

For that fortune to be positive, a pair of untested youngsters must have productive debuts.

With defensive end Nick Eason still hobbling with a sprained ankle, true freshman Eric Coleman - who three weeks ago was an offensive tackle - is scheduled to make his first career start today. Likewise for redshirt sophomore Toure Francis, who starts in place of cornerback Kevin Johnson.

Johnson has a broken rib and will only play in an emergency.

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