9 Things to Count on Against Tech

Coming into a matchup with nemesis Wake Forest, Clemson fans thirsted for answers to off-season questions about depth at offensive tackle, its run defense and playmakers at wide receivers. Although some of those questions were answered, many others surfaced when the Tigers struggled to beat the Deacons.

With that in mind, here's a look at nine things you can count on this week against Georgia Tech:

1. A Much Better Rush Defense: Some might think that is a bold statement when facing the 2003 ACC leading rusher P. J. Daniels, but in reality its down right obvious. Wake Forest has been the team with the highest rushing total against the Tigers in each of the last two seasons. While the Tigers have given up 366, 321, and 254 yards on the ground to the Deacs in 2002, 2003 and 2004 respectively, Clemson has only given up 190, and 45 yards on the ground to the Jackets since the arrival of head coach Chan Gailey in 2002 and 2003.

If history is indiciation, no other team will approach the 254-yard mark against the Tigers on the ground in 2004.

The Tigers not only match up better against the Jackets' power running game,they also return arguably their best potential run stuffer in 315 lb redshirt freshmen Chris McDuffie. Whether the coaches allow McDuffie to play enough to make an impact this Saturday is unimportant, as it is should be in the game plan to load the box and stuff the run making sporadic Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball beat the Tigers with his arm.

2. The First Interception of 2004: Count on it like you will count on the sun rising over Death Valley Saturday morning. Reggie Ball will be harassed and will throw an errant pass into the Tiger's speedy secondary for the first pick of the 2004 season. The only question is what will Tye Hill or Justin Miller do with the ball once they get it in their hands?

3. More Spreading of the Football: With his 154 yards receiving Saturday, Airese Currie broke the all time first game receiving yards total, a record held by former All-American and national title winner Perry Tuttle. Not only that, Currie and Stuckey teamed to be the first two receivers to go over 100 yards in a single since 1998 when Mal Lawyer and Brian Wofford both accomplished the feat in the same game.

Don't expect it to happen again this Saturday. In fact, in order for the Clemson offense to start hitting on all cylinders again, Whitehurst will need to distribute the ball to more of his playmakers. Besides Currie and Stuckey, only two other players caught a ball from Whitehurst for a total of 3 receptions.

Look for redshirt freshmen Kelvin Grant to step up to the challenge. Grant's big reception against Wake in OT could be just what he needs to spark his career and should be the 1st of many big plays for Grant in a Clemson jersey.

4. More Offensive Points: Take away the 7 points scored on Justin Miller's punt return and the 2 points scored on Stuckey's blocked kick and you soon realize that the Tigers only scored 18 points from the offensive side of the ball in regulation against Wake Forest. This comes from a team that averaged almost 40 points a game over its last four games in 2003. Look for the Tigers to start to up its offensive production Saturday with a better performance from Whitehurst and a better performance from an offensive front that is trying to find an identity after so many position switches in fall camp.

5. More Groover and McDuffie: Over the summer I touted these two as the most talented tackles on the Clemson roster. Saturday you will get to see what all that hype was about. Although I would never rush to judgement after 1 performance, it was obvious that Groover was the top performer at tackle against the Deacs as he consistently established the line of scrimmage and moved the pocket better than any other interior linemen.

6. A Packed Death Valley: Not only is the game a sellout, but reports are that students are gobbling up the tickets fast and many upper classmen will find themselves on the Hill or in the Upper Deck as those were the only tickets remaining on Tuesday.

7. More Browning and Merriweather: Coach Bowden has promised we will see more of backup tailbacks Kyle Browning and Reggie Merriweather. After Tuesday's practice he said that the offensive line was having trouble sustaining blocks. Browning and Merriweather are both quicker than Yusef Kelly and Coach Bowden will insert them into the lineup in hopes that they will he able to hit the fast closing holes a little quicker than Kelly.

Merriweather, is regarded by many as the most effective ground gainer on the Clemson roster, and that includes injured Duane Coleman. And no one has been more productive with touches of the football than Kyle Browning. In the last two games Browning has touched the ball just 3 times, scoring on 2 of the 3 opportunities, including an overtime touchdown against Wake Forest and a touchdown in the Peach Bowl against Tennessee.

8. A Loud Death Valley: After taking pride in the intimidation it brought to opposing teams so long, Clemson fans should take Chan Gailey's comments in regards to Clemson's Death Valley a bit personal. Gailey referred to the Valley as a place "Like all other places" to play. A Clemson fan should not have any trouble getting off the very hands it sat on last Saturday for most of the 3rd and 4th quarters to get the Valley fired up and show Mr. Gailey just what kind of awful place it can be to play in. Surely after Saturday's game Clemson fans will have made sure that Ol' Chan will leave an atmosphere that he will soon not forget.

9. A 31-10 Clemson Victory: Ok, so maybe an exact score you can count is a reach, but I have said that the Jackets would struggle this year in the ACC. Without a proven playmaker at wide receiver and without depth on the defensive side of the ball, Tech showed early signs Saturday of just what we can expect from them in 2004 against 1-AA Samford.

This Saturday night the Tech offense will struggle to score 10 points and the Clemson offense will start to pick up the tempo hanging 31 on the hapless Jackets.

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