Should he use the quick passing game, which the Wolfpack thrives against or should the Tigers attempt longer passes downfield, thus giving that incredible defensive line more time to get to the quarterback?
N.C. State runs tight, man-to-man, press coverage, where the defensive backs are lined on the line of scrimmage directly across from the receivers. The reason for this is to take away the quick passing plays and force the receivers to try and take more time to get open, which plays perfectly into the Wolfpack's hands.
The longer it takes for the receivers to get open, the greater the chances that a member of that stud defensive line will reach the quarterback for a sack, or at least pressure him enough to force a bad pass that may lead to an interception.
"Press coverage presents a tremendous challenge for the players and for the coaches," offensive coordinator Rob Spence said. "When you're really, really good at playing that technique, then it takes away a lot of different elements in what you can do on offense. …
"The efficiency of throwing the football goes way down when you attack that kind of coverage. Hopefully you're big-play potential is greater and you can take advantage of that. But you have to be highly, highly skilled on offense, both as a receiver and a quarterback and you have to be a real technician at receiver to get open on that kind of press. So, yes, it takes away the efficiency from any offense."
As Spence said, the opportunity for big plays will be there. However, it will be a simple matter of which player in the matchup plays best. Each member of the Clemson offense will be lined up against one single player from the Wolfpack. There will be very, very little zone play by N.C. State.
"It will be a game of one-on-ones," Spence said. "It will come down to making a play against a defender covering a receiver one-on-one. When they rush the passer up front, it's going to be one-on-ones up front. All the different coverages that they use for the most part employ some sort of man concept. You've got to make plays on man and you've got to protect the passer while you're doing so against a tremendous rush."
That defensive line, which is thought of so highly by just about everyone that watches or knows anything about football, has struggled this year at times. They are prone to making tons of penalties and the team's 2-2 record proves they can be beat.
However, Spence is fully impressed with what he's seen from that line.
"They've got tremendous athletes on the defensive line," he said. "I think you if compare to the teams we've played, I'd say athletically, they're as good if not superior to Miami on the defensive line. They're just tremendous on the defensive line. Their skill level on defense is as good as you'll see in the ACC. They run as well as anybody and they're physical, fast and they play in a foul mood it seems like every single play. We've got our hands full."
Spence believes the offensive line has done a very good job of protecting Charlie Whitehurst thus far. And if the Tigers are to have a chance to reach of the .500 mark record wise, they must hold their own against the defense.
But just in case the protection breaks down a bit, there are other ways to slow down those monster defensive ends.
"You can't just do one thing," Spence said. "You have to keep those defensive linemen at bay with different movements in the backfield with shifts and motions, throw the ball at different time frames and move the pocket some. You've really got to keep them off balance in order to function on offense."
Tuesday Practice Notes
There were no injuries at practice Tuesday. However, offensive tackle Christian Capote will not make the trip to Raleigh. That means Tim DeBeer will be the primary backup at both right and left tackle. Should he go down with an injury, Brandon Pilgrim will be used at that spot. … With receiver and kickoff returner Kelvin Grant gone for the season, Duane Coleman and C.J. Gaddis will handle the kickoff return duties.
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