No one can block Ricky

CLEMSON — James Davis stood at the entrance to the locker room Thursday night screaming down the hall at Clemson defensive end Ricky Sapp.

"Hey, Ricky Sapp is the man," Davis said. "No one can block him. He must have had 12 sacks today. You can't block him."

Sapp, who is not the kind to brag, just looked down at the floor, gathered his things and said, "Naha."

But Davis is right, Sapp can't be stopped. Through the first two weeks of camp no one has been able to successfully slow down the Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School product.

"He is dominating practice right now in the rush game," Sapp's position and Clemson outside linebackers coach Ron West said following Thursday's practice. "He is doing a good job rushing the quarterback, making things happen and making big plays.

"He can do anything he wants to do because he is that kind of player."

Though he added eight more pounds this summer and now stands at 6-foot-4, 248 pounds, the only thing West would like to see Sapp continue to do is gain more weight.

"Then you have more power and speed," the Clemson coach said. "That's what Gaines kept was power and speed as he developed. He can be a dominant player in his junior year. He can start making some things happen in this league and for his team.

"He needs to because we are really counting on him."

Sapp recognizes that, and that's why he spent the off-season eating the right foods and working hard to put on the right kind of weight without dropping his speed.

"We have one of the best weight room staffs in the country," Sapp said. "They got me on a program where I eat a big breakfast and eat about two more big meals. I eat a lot of pasta. I stopped eating hamburgers and I drink a lot of water. That helped me gain more weight, while getting stronger with it too."

That self-dedication is appearing to payoff. For the third time during camp, the coaches thought about taking him out of practice Thursday.

"We can't block Ricky Sapp right now," Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said. "Whatever tackle he goes over, he is beating. We are going to have to take him out. I hope he gives other teams the problem he is giving us."

Sapp is getting that kind of pressure because he is stronger. West says that's because he is pressing the pocket more.

"The difference in Ricky Sapp last year and this year is 20 pounds, and that's 20 pounds of muscle," West said. "There has never been a problem with Ricky Sapp. The problem was more of a lighter kid and he didn't have the strength factor.

"In college football, you have to build it."

Sapp, who weighed 217 pounds when he came to Clemson in 2006, enters his junior season with a lot to play for. After recording 52 tackles and five sacks last season in his first year as a starter, he is considered one of the best pass rushers in the ACC. But to get to the next level, he understood he had to bulk up while not losing his speed so he could improve on his run stopping skills, while also maintaining his elite pass rushing status.

"I feel real comfortable with my weight after spending a year carrying it and gaining 10 more pounds and getting stronger with it," he said. "I think my speed and my strength have all leveled out so I feel pretty good about it.

"Coach West told me last year that I have to be a student of the game so I started studying offensive linemen more and offensive plays more and I think everything is starting to click."

The more Sapp does, the more he seems to be like his predecessor Gaines Adams, who is now entering his second season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL.

"The difference between him and Gaines is Gaines was a sixth-year guy," Bowden said. "He had prep school and then five years. (Sapp) is just in his third year. He has the speed, but he doesn't have the upper body strength. He is more of an edge guy, but he is very talented… He is 20 pounds lighter than what Gaines was. He's not as good against the run, but he is so quick he is still very effective against the run and is probably a little quicker than Gaines." Top Stories