Clemson WRs Worry Tennessee

Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis says it has been years since he has seen receivers as talented as those of Peach Bowl foe Clemson. "You'd have to go back to the early '90s, when Florida was really outstanding, to find a group of receivers that would compare with this group," he said.

To understand just what a monumental compliment that is, you have to take a look at the success Florida's receivers had against the Vol defenses in the early '90s.

Chavis was Vol linebacker coach in 1993 and '94, when Florida outscored Tennessee 41-34 and 31-0. His first year as UT coordinator ('95) saw his defense shredded to the tune of 62-37 as the Gators scored touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions. The Gators then scored 35 first-half points, then called off the dogs in a 35-29 victory in '96. So, when Chavis compares Clemson's offensive wideouts to the Florida wideouts of the early '90s, that's about as lavish as praise can get.

Kevin Youngblood (67 catches for 833 yards, 2 TDs) and Derrick Hamilton (57 receptions for 957 yards and 10 TDs) are the Tigers top threats. Even more impressive is the fact that Clemson's No. 3 receiver, Airese Currie, caught 38 balls for 510 yards ... nearly matching the production of Vol receiving leader James Banks (39 catches for 584 yards).

Asked if Youngblood, Hamilton and Curry pose the biggest threat of the season to Tennessee's secondary, Chavis nodded emphatically.

"No question," he said. "It will be BY FAR the biggest."

Making Clemson's passing game even more effective is quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Statistically, he ranks ahead of UT counterpart Casey Clausen in passing yards (3,314 to 2,584), completion percentage (62.4 to 56.6) and passing efficiency (138.8 to 135.5). Whitehurst also is a capable runner.

"Because of the spread offense, they're able to create some things," Chavis said. "Obviously, the quarterback does a good job running the ball. He's a big, physical guy who's doing a tremendous job running their offense."

Bottom line: The Tigers probably boast the most talented skill people Tennessee's defense will face all season.

"There's nobody we play this year that would compare ... nobody who has the talent on offense that they (Tigers) do," Chavis said. "Talent-wise, they're as good as anybody in the country."

Because Clemson relies on a spread offense that opens up the field a bit, Tiger running back Duane Coleman (125 carries, 611 yards, 4.9 per-carry average) has managed to be productive in a generally pass-oriented attack.

In addition, the Tigers rely heavily on a no-huddle attack that leaves opponents little time to make defensive adjustments and substitutions.

"They do a great job of forcing you to show your hand, then getting the play called that they want," Chavis said. "You have to hide things as much as you can. That will be a real challenge for us because of what they do at the line of scrimmage."

Last, but not least, the Tigers play just enough of the option attack to make opposing defenses prepare for it.

"They're going to mix in a little option," Chavis said. "They do a lot of things that you have to prepare for. They make you play the entire field."

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