Tigers Have Hands Full with Missouri's Justin Smith

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON, SC -- They used to give guys like this nicknames.

In the old days, Missouri defensive end/linebacker/team-wrecker Justin Smith would have had a nickname like "Bull" or "S-Train" or "Horse," as in the team is going to ride him to victory.

Maybe professional wrestling took all the good nicknames that could have come Smith's way. He could have been "The Stinger" or "The Rock."

Or maybe Smith is just happy with the one he has - "Smitty." It's not much of a nickname, but when you're Justin Smith, you don't need anything fancy. Not when you've been caught on tape lumping over a running back trying to block you.

"He took two steps and rushed underneath and the fullback came up to block him," said Clemson offensive guard Will Merritt. "He jumped completely over the fullback, and the fullback was standing straight up. He made the play on the quarterback. It was a phenomenal athletic move. It looked like something Lavar Arrington would have done."

If you're going to compare Smith to someone, it's best to compare him to Clemson's Keith "Termite" Adams. Both are one-man wrecking crews, capable of dominating a game. Smith, a junior, is six sacks away from Missouri's all-time sack record. In two years he's had 181 tackles. He benches 500 pounds and can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds. He can also jump 30.5.

The Missouri play-by-play guy calls him Godzilla. Still not original enough. He's not a player that clogs things up. He puts the jitters in a quaterback's feet.

"The move him around," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who has been trying to figure out a way to get past the idea of Smith's wrecking Clemson the same way Virginia Tech's Corey Moore did last year. Moore likely had a better supporting cast, but he was in Brandon Streeter's back pocket all night. Moore had two sacks, four tackles for loss, a caused fumble that was returned for a touchdown and a pass break-up. Memories of that still haunt Clemson.

"We watched last year's film on (Smith) and he lines up as a linebacker in the middle, he lines up to the boundary side and the field side. He drops and he rushes. They move him all around. He's a guy like Corey Moore. We didn't do a good job against him."

The key for Clemson against a hard-charging player like Smith is to get the ball past the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible. Clemson sends five receivers out. That leaves little protection and precious little time to think.

"Most teams we get pressure us," said Bowden. "Most defenses are geared to stop the run. Then we played teams last year that could cover our wideouts - then we had problems. We'll find out this year if we can handle that. Blitzing teams, though, have given us problems."

Clemson will take a team approach to handling Smith on Saturday. "It's not a thing where we're saying that the tackles will have to be perfect this week," said Merritt. "We're all going to have our hands full with him. They have four other guys that are talented up front. We're going to have to make some adjustments. We're going to have to find where he's at on every play. He's going to make some plays and get his share of tackles. But if you bank on one man on winning the game for you, it isn't going to work."

If Smith does somehow become a one-man wrecking crew Saturday, it won't matter what they call him. You'll always remember him.

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