CLEMSON - Clemson's run defense faces a good news/bad news scenario Thursday night at Virginia.
The good news comes from Virginia's offensive scheme, which tends to be more of a power running game featuring junior tailback Wali Lundy. Until running out of gas late last time out vs. Florida State, the Tiger run defense did an admirable job of keeping the Seminoles in check - an FSU team with a similar running scheme.
The bad news? Clemson at times has been hurt by mobile quarterbacks this season, and Virginia has one of the ACC's best runners at the position in Marques Hagans.
"You have to keep an eye on him," defensive line coach Ron West said following Monday's practice. "If you don't he can hurt you."
West, whose defensive line has come under scrutiny this season as Clemson struggles to stop the run, likened Hagans to Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal. McNeal rushed for 129 yards on 17 carries in the Aggies' 27-6 win over the Tigers.
His ability to get to the corner on the option caused the Tigers no end of problems in the defeat. And while Hagans won't run the option as much - if any - the Cavaliers still try to get him on the move.
"They'll roll him to the corners from time to time, probably on a run-pass option," West said. "Our job is to stay in our lanes and contain him as much as possible."
And therein may lie the rub.
Hagans, while a threat to run, doesn't do it much by design. Where he has hurt the Cavs' first four opponents has been scrambling out of the pocket to avoid the rush. In only 15 carries this season, Hagans has 139 yards (9.3 per carry).
West said those situations - with defensive linemen engaged with offensive linemen - is where Hagans is most dangerous.
"It doesn't take much room. All he needs is a crease," said West. "One little bit of daylight and he's gone."
Hagans also has been surprisingly proficient throwing the ball, completing 54-of-71 passes (76 percent) for 770 yards and four touchdowns.
"We've got to be disciplined," West said. "If we're not he can hurt us."
Head coach Tommy Bowden only spent a couple of minutes with the media Monday, having to leave immediately after practice to do his weekly radio talk show. Normally Bowden's show is on Thursdays, but the show was rescheduled for Monday night because of Clemson's appearance at Virginia Thursday on ESPN.
When he did take time for the media, Bowden said Monday's practice was significantly better than Sunday's.
"It went really well," he said. "I'd be surprised if we didn't play hard."