Accountability on Defense

CLEMSON – Even though the team's leader in quarterback sacks from a year ago is long gone and he is viewed by the coaches as one of the leaders on defense, Phillip Merling said he doesn't feel any extra pressure to produce this season because he truly views it as a team effort.

The junior defensive end, who had three sacks and 10 tackles for loss last year, is being looked upon by the coaching staff to be one of the players to step forth and truly guide this young unit with his words and effort.

For Merling, that's not that daunting of a task because he feels everyone on the defensive is a leader in his own way.

"I don't think of myself as a leader," he said. "I like to think of myself as a person that likes to go out there and work hard. I don't try and tell people what to do. There are a few times when I will say something and they will either do it or they won't. One thing about me, I try to do things when somebody else says something to me."

The point Merling is trying to get across is that he will say something when he deems it necessary, but he's not going to be talking just to be talking.

He also is no more important or bigger than anyone else on the defense and he feels his teammates have all the right in the world to say something to him if he's doing something wrong.

That definitely wasn't the case last year.

Rarely, if ever, were the vocal ones on defense ever questioned by anyone other than the coaches.

This year, Merling says, everyone will be held accountable, which is why he thinks the entire defense, especially on line.

"I don't feel any pressure because I know when they see Ricky (Sapp) on the other side of the ball, it's going to loosen up things for the rest of us up front," Merling said. "I don't think a team should double or triple team me like they did Gaines (Adams) because of Ricky on the other side."

He even thinks the secondary, which is viewed as the weakness of the defense by some, is going to be much better than outsiders think.

"Our secondary is working real hard and they're not as young as people think because our two safeties started last year," Merling said. "And with the two corners, Chris Chancellor started some games and Crezdon Butler played a lot, so I think we have enough experience to put a good season together."

For Merling, it's been a productive offseason. He's tipping the scales at 273 pounds, just three pounds over his ideal playing weight and he is meeting all his goals in the weight room.

Everything appears to be in the making for a big, big season out of the 6-foot-7, Memphis native.

"Every year, I go into it expecting a big year," he said. "But this year, I'm expecting more. I think we have some talented guys up front and I know that they're not going to be able to just double team and triple team on me or anybody on the defensive line.

"There's going to be a lot of single blocks so I'm thinking all of us should do real good, not just me." Top Stories