Clemson Defense Ready for the Challenge

CLEMSON – It's been well documented over the last five days about the danger Calvin Johnson poses as a threat at receiver and how quarterback Reggie Ball has improved dramatically this season. But one thing that has been left out is that of Ball's legs, which may pose the biggest danger for the Clemson defense.

There are two ways to look at this: The Tigers have yet to face a quarterback with the mobility of Ball and the Yellow Jackets have yet to face a defense with the speed and athleticism of Clemson, and that includes almighty Notre Dame.

"It's basically like having a running back at quarterback," said nose guard Donnell Clark. "He's real fast, can throw on the move and hit the receivers that are open. It's going to be a big challenge for us to try and stop him and the rest of the offense."

What makes Ball, who is averaging 4.7 yards per rush attempt, so dangerous is just when a defense thinks they have him wrapped up, he escapes and either runs for big yards or hits his star receiver for a really big gain.

"It's a little bit easier if you know where the quarterback's going to be at and then go after him there," Clark said. "But with this guy, you really don't know where he's going to be at. You've got to try to rush every lane and everybody's got to keep to their lane and try to keep him contained. And if you keep him contained, he can still throw it to Calvin Johnson."

Clemson found that out the hard way last season.

"We had him corralled pretty good and he was able to sneak out and get a first down on a couple of occasions," Tigers defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. "You have to account for him. It's going to be a challenge like everybody else who's played them has found out."

The two most conventional ways to combat Ball's mobility are to contain him and prevent him from getting around the edges, as well as have a middle linebacker act as a "spy" and do nothing but keep track of the quarterback.

With the very athletic defensive ends that Clemson possess, as well as the ultra quick middle linebacker, both seem like logical defensive strategies.

"With this game, you're going to have to have a good pass rush and you're going to have to know shut it down," said Bandit Gaines Adams. "In other games, you could go all out with the rush, but with Reggie Ball, you have to slow to fast pass rush to really see what he's doing.

"Reggie Ball is a great athlete and he's going to make big plays. You just trying to minimize the big plays he's going to make. We're going to stay in our rush lanes and do the little things."

The other option for the Clemson defense is to build a type of gate in front of Ball and make it difficult for him to see downfield. Ball only stands 5-foot-11.

"You want to get in his face so he can't see over you," Koenning said. "His limitation would be his height."

But in the end, it's going to be up to the likes of Adams, Rickey Sapp and Phillip Merling to keep him contained.

Adams, for one, feels like it's a task that won't be too difficult.

"We've just got to stay in our rush lanes," he said. "We've got to play smart football with those two guys. They're two great players.

"But I feel that with our speed on defense that we'll be perfectly fine being able to contain Reggie Ball."

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