Breaking Down the Defense

We now take a detailed look at the defensive side of the ball for both Clemson and Texas Tech in this position by position breakdown of the 2002 Mazda Tangerine Bowl. Kickoff is set for Monday December 23rd at 5:30 PM in the Flordia Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

If there is one edge where the Tigers have the clear-cut advantage in this game, it's in the secondary. Led by freshman All-American Justin Miller (7 INTs) and senior cornerback Brian Mance (6 INTs), the Tigers are currently listed as the 17th best team in the country against the pass.

Unfortunately, they'll face their stiffest test of the year when Kliff Kingsbury, Wes Walker and company come calling Monday evening. The Red Raiders attempted more passes this season than any other team in the country, and they like to spread the ball around to all parts of the field.

For Texas Tech, their secondary has been a much-maligned unit for most of the season, giving up an average of 233 yards through the air in the rough and rugged Big 12. Both of their starting cornerbacks are under 5-feet 11-inches tall and both have had their share of struggles this season.

CB Joselio Hanson (5-9, 170) leads the way with 75 total tackles and 3 INTs on the year, while Ricky Sailor (5-10, 188) added 69 and another 3 INTs. On film, both corners are susceptible to play-action passing game, so if the Tigers can get any sort of a running game going- look out, points could go up in a hurry.

Strong safety Ryan Aycock (6-1, 208) finished second on the team in total tackles with 143 while free safety and is solid with run support.

Turn on your VCRs Monday, because this game has the potential to be a Justin Miller highlight reel. The freshman corner has proven to be one of the top playmakers in the country in the secondary this season, and he'll have plenty of chances to do some things in this one. The Tigers have edge here, but they'll be tested in excess of 50+ times through the air.


Defensive Line
The Tigers' defensive front has performed admirably this season, led by senior defensive tackle Nick Eason and end Bryant McNeal. McNeal's quickness could allow him to help breakdown a Red Raiders offensive line that is awfully big, but somewhat slow off the ball.

DT Donnell Washington has had somewhat of a disappointing sophomore season, but his strong play against South Carolina has helped him regain some of his first year confidence.

For Texas Tech, their strength is on the outside with ends Adell Duckett (6-4, 250) and Aaron Hunt (6-3, 270). Hunt registered 16.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks on the season and figures to give the Tigers all they can handle Monday. Duckett added 4 more sacks on the year.

How the Red Raiders' defensive line performs against the Tigers' offensive will be one of the more intriguing match ups of the game. Both units have struggled at times this season due to injuries and other factors, yet both will be depended to play well Monday.

For now, we give the slight edge to the Tigers, with the quickness of Bryant McNeal and the aggressiveness and leadership of Nick Eason being the difference. Watch out for Aaron Hunt though, he's a talent.


One glaring loss the Tigers have to deal with in the Tangerine Bowl is the dismissal of "whip" linebacker Eric Sampson. Sampson was dismissed from the team several weeks due to a violation of team rules, namely not hitting the books.

Don't underestimate the loss, even though Kelvin Morris is clearly a more talented player with more physical tools. There's a reason Kelvin hasn't made more of an impact this season- he's inexperienced in John Lovett's defense. We've seen Morris involved on a couple of breakdowns this year (see the Duke game) and it will important for him to play well Monday if the Tigers are going to win.

John Leake and Rodney Thomas will continue their battle to see who can get the most tackles this season, and both backers have had extremely productive years.

However, missed tackles and blown assignments have hurt the Tigers' linebackers during some crucial stretches of the season at Florida State, against N.C. State, and also against the Maryland Terrapins.

John Leake is originally from Plano, Texas, and nothing gets him more motivated then playing against a team from his home state. Keep your eye on him; he could be in for a monster afternoon.

For Texas Tech, LB Lawrence Flugence (6-2, 236) has been an animal on the field, putting up over 180 total tackles on the year. Flugence is a scrapper who makes plays and forces the offense to account for him at all times, and it's because of him, and the absence of Sampson that we give the slight edge to the Red Raiders in this one.