Johnson Still a Nightmare Matchup

CLEMSON – Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson stands 6-foot-5 and is a very muscular 235 pounds. The tallest Clemson cornerback that gets significant playing time is C.J. Gaddis at 6-foot. He is also the heaviest at 210 pounds.

Now you understand the problem facing the Tigers defense.

Last year when Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning devised a plan to slow down Johnson, Tye Hill, a first-round NFL draft pick, was involved extensively. Johnson, who also be a future first-round pick, only had four catches for 46 yards.

This year, Hill is gone and Johnson is better. Koenning will earn every penny of his paycheck trying to devise a new scheme to slow Johnson, a junior, down this week.

"We've obviously watched last year's film, but we're a different team with different players," Koenning said. "We don't have a dynamic blitzing linebacker that we had last year at this time. We're just a different team."

What makes Johnson even more valuable to the Yellow Jackets is their ability to run the ball. Georgia Tech is behind only Clemson in rushing offense in the ACC. Teams need all the personnel they can get to slow down the run, which allows Johnson to be matched up more in one-on-one situations.

"If you put another guy out there to cover him, then you're going to be down in the box (with run support)," Koenning said. "It's just a matter of picking your poison. I don't know if there's a right answer for either one because they can both beat you pretty fast. …

"If they'd let us play with 13 or 14 guys and we could probably cover and blitz. But I don't think they're going to let us do that."

Clemson's not alone in having problems in trying to devise ways to slow down Johnson. In six games, Johnson has 35 catches for 559 yards and eight touchdowns. He's averaging 93.2 yards receiving per game, which ranks eight nationally.

"What he's so good at, is if you get over top of him, he sort of wallows you out of the way," Koenning said. "There's several times you see physical play. And obviously at 235 pounds, you're not going to win that battle too many times. … "When he catches the ball, he gains yards. It's amazing. He's just so rangy. It seems he gets three or four yards with every step."

Of course, there are some ways to slow Johnson down, but stopping him all together is something completely different.

"First and foremost, you can't let him get between you and the goal, because you're not going to win that battle," Koenning said. "You're really at a dilemma. If you start trying to double team every time, then they've got other wide receivers that are good."

That last statement might be a bit of a stretch.

Only one other Georgia Tech receiver, James Johnson, has more than 10 receptions. He has 15 catches for 225 yards and one touchdown.

Thus, fully expect there to be plenty of safety help in guarding Johnson. He will likely have three shadows everywhere he goes – his own and two Clemson players.

In his short time at Clemson, Koenning has shown an uncanny ability to take away the opposition's key component on offense, with the exception of Maryland's Vernon Davis last year.

There's no reason to believe it Johnson is going to have an easy time of it Saturday night, not given Koenning's track record.

But, never say never.

"We will do what we do and we'll just see how good we are," Koenning said. "It is very hard every week to come with a new and different plan to formulate and scheme on a player."

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