First Order of Business: Stopping McNeal

It's not exactly going out on a limb to say that in order for the Clemson football team to pull out the victory over No. 17 Texas A&M Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, the Tigers are going to have to at the very least contain Aggies quarterback Reggie McNeal.

But it's nonetheless true.

McNeal, who sports the nickname ‘The Real Deal,' is considered by some experts to be an outside candidate to win the Hesiman Trophy. And if he puts up close to any of the same numbers against Clemson as he did last year in College Station, he'll be well on his way toward achieving that goal.

A season ago, McNeal had 17 carries for 129 yards. He also was 14-of-26 passing for another 178 yards. To put that in perspective, he alone had 307 yards of total offense. As a team, Clemson compiled 250 yards.

"I think we might have been equipped (to stop him) last year," Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. "We didn't tackle him. We've got to find out if we're better equipped to tackle him from either, a skill standpoint, fundamental standpoint, talent standpoint, scheme standpoint, whatever. We'll find out Saturday.

"He's a tough guy to tackle. I think the fact that it has to be done by numerous guys as opposed to one. You tackle really good skill players by numbers because usually pretty good guys are going to make one guy miss. Where's number two? Where's number three? Where's number four? … He's going to make his share of guys miss."

Now, making McNeal possibly even more dangerous is the fact that Texas A&M has installed a good portion of the spread offense ran last season by Utah. Members of the Aggies coaching staff spent part of the spring at Florida learning the system from coach Urban Meyer.

"With the speed we have out wide, it's just another added plus for us because you can just get the ball in anybody's hand out wide and they can make plays and you can just use the speed on the edges," McNeal said. "The receivers, backs, me, whichever way you want to put it."

The thing about McNeal is he realizes there's more to the offense than just him. He has a stable of big and quick receivers and running back Courtney Lewis, who rushed for 742 yards last season in 12 games. In four of those games, he had nine carries or less due to nagging injuries.

"I'm real happy to have him back and going full speed again," McNeal said. "Having him healthy is going to take a lot of the pressure off me. Defenses won't know whether to take him on a read play or take me. We feel like we're in a win-win situation." Top Stories