Brandon Thompson has made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks during his four-year Clemson career, even though he hasn't recorded gaudy sack numbers. The senior defensive tackle from Thomasville, Ga. has just 4.5 during his stint as a Tiger, and over half of those were made this season.
But he does have 47 career quarterback pressures. He and fellow defensive tackle Rennie Moore lead the team with 18 this season.
Even if they're not sacking Geno Smith, a good pocket push up the middle figures to be a key for Clemson's defense as they try to disrupt West Virginia's quick-hit, up-tempo passing attack during Wednesday night's Orange Bowl.
"I think that's always big. To be able to get in there and push the pocket, stir up the quarterback a little bit," Thompson said. "If we just get back there, do our jobs and everyone do their job, we should come out successful in this game."
Good pressure from the defensive line requires more than an all-out push up the field towards the quarterback.
"Everyone just stays focused and just does their job, just wait on it, wait for their time, we should be good," Thompson said.
West Virginia has allowed 2.17 sacks per game, which ranks 77th nationally. Though Smith isn't necessarily regarded as a runner, Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wouldn't discount his ability to keep plays alive.
"He has the ability to scramble," Steele said. "I've known him since he was in high school, so I know what he can do with his legs. But he really does, he's more of an NFL style, and then he scrambles to throw."
West Virginia lost its leading rusher when freshman Dustin Garrison suffered a knee injury at practice on Friday. Because of the injury, Shawne Alston will start in his place.
Garrison leads the team with 742 yards on the ground while Alston has a team-high 10 touchdowns.
The changes in personnel won't affect Clemson's game plan.
"We're still going to treat them the same way. We're not going to treat it any different," Thompson said. "They lost a couple of running backs, but they still have more great ones. All of them were young coming in this year."
The day after the game, Thompson will head back home to Thomasville, Ga. He'll begin preparing for the NFL Draft on the eighth with API in Pensacola.
"[I'm looking forward to] just coming out with my team one more time, getting to be out there with the boys and getting to have one more great game," he said.
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