Diagnosing the D-Line

CLEMSON - It was thought Clemson's defensive would be a strength for the team right out of the gates this season. Through two games however, it's been more of a work in progress than anything else.

The scoreboard looked like it was supposed to Saturday afternoon once the Tigers secured their first win of the season over The Citadel. And after recording 45 points and over 500 yards of total offense, it seemed as though Clemson finally emerged from the disastrous start suffered the week before against Alabama.

Unfortunately, those numbers only told part of the story in the 45-17 win as defensively the Tigers walked off the field with just as many questions as the week before.

By the end of the game the Bulldogs had amassed over 420 yards of total offense, including an astounding 338 through the air.

Equally as disturbing was the fact Clemson had managed just one sack in the game and failed to get the kind of consistent pressure that was expected against a team from the FCS.

Of course it's important to credit The Citadel for its performance, but clearly, the Tigers also didn't perform at a high level either, and it started up front with the defensive line.

"We got some pressure Saturday," defensive line coach Chris Rumph admits. "We got some good hits on the quarterback and we pressured him a few times but we've got to get more consistent. A lot of stuff we were doing, three-man blitzing and slanting at an angle, we aren't going to get much pressure but I'm disappointed because we need to get more sacks and get more pressure."

Not helping matters was the fact the Tigers were also missing three linemen Saturday in DT Rashaad Jackson, DT Jamie Cumbie and bandit end Ricky Sapp.

The unit was so depleted that the coaching staff elected to take the redshirt off of freshman tackle Brandon Thompson, who saw his first action Saturday and recorded two tackles including a half-tackle for loss.

Freshman defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is now running with the first team and should start this weekend against N.C. State.
"I thought he played very good," Rumph said of Thompson, the No. 6 defensive tackle in the nation in the class of 2008 according to Scout.com. "It looked like he got a little tired near the end. His pad level got a little high but for a rookie I thought he played pretty good. He's going to help us this year."

Rumph also highlighted a couple of veteran players in the interior who need to improve their play in the coming weeks, specifically Dorell Scott and Miguel Chavis.

"I want Dorell [Scott] to make more plays than he's making," he said of his fifth-year senior. "He really hasn't had the chance because in the Alabama game he was getting double teamed the whole time and then he hardly didn't play this last game once it got out of hand. We were playing a lot of the second and third team guys most of the second half and I didn't want him to get hurt."

And as far as Chavis goes, Rumph was a little more critical.

"I thought he had a really bad game," he said. "Probably the worst game he's had since he's been here. We switched him and put him in a new position Saturday and hopefully he's used to it now.

"He moved from nose to tackle. He got knocked on his butt a little bit and that was disappointing. He'll bounce back. I know he will but that was disappointing.

"A lot of times on Saturday we were too heavy on guys. We got to work half of a man. Not to make any excuses, but you take three of our pass rushers out of our system and that hurts too. We are a little wounded right now but that's no excuse."

Don't worry, the news out of Saturday's game wasn't all bad. Freshman Da'Quan Bowers seems to be getting better with each snap and will likely overtake Kevin Alexander for the starting position in the near future.

Bowers recorded the only sack of the game and was routinely setting up shop in the Bulldogs' backfield, missing several more sacks by literally inches at times.

Also, the Clemson staff is expecting Ricky Sapp back this week as well.

"Having him and Bowers coming off the edge for this game this week- that would be tremendous," said Rumph. "Bowers did some good things for us but he still has a lot to learn but he's coming along."

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