Tigers moving forward at DE

CLEMSON — One might think being the defensive ends coach at a major college program would be a challenging enough job by itself.

But try throwing in the fact Clemson ranked 108th nationally in total number of sacks in 2008 whil teams like Syracuse, Louisiana-Lafayette and Eastern Michigan ranked higher.

Granted, the Tigers finished ranked 18th nationally in total defense, but recording 14 sacks in 13 games isn't going to get the job done in 2009. In the last two seasons, Clemson's sack total has gradually declined from 35 in 2006 and with a new scheme which will produce more pressure on quarterbacks, it will be imperative the Tigers' ends and linebackers find their way to the quarterback.

"I'm going to use everything I have to get the job done," defensive ends coach Chris Rumph said in a recent interview with CUTigers.

Simply put, Rumph's ends will have to get the job done.

Last year, Clemson's defensive ends accounted for only three of those 14 sacks. And as talented as he is, highly touted end Da'Quan Bowers only accounted for one of those sacks, while fellow Bamberg native Ricky Sapp had the other two after being slowed by a bad knee for much of the season.

"I have to get in the weight room and get stronger and then work on my forty time so I can get faster. Then I think everything will come into place itself," Bowers said.

And that's the way all the Clemson defensive ends are viewing this upcoming season. Despite last year's low sack numbers, the defensive ends are viewed as one of the Tigers' strengths. Sapp is expected to be back to old form after recovering from off-season knee surgery, while Bowers is expected to be a year older and wiser. Kevin Alexander, who is viewed as Clemson's hardest worker in the weight room, was the most improved defensive player in camp this past spring.

Then there are talented players like Andre Branch and Kourtnei Brown and true freshman Malliciah Goodman, who will provide quality depth.

"We have to make sure we are doing things the right way and that everyone knows the defense and their assignments," Rumph said. "That's important right now."

That should not be as much of an issue this year considering Rumph will only be coaching the ends on defense, where last year he coached one side of the ends and the defensive tackles. This year Dan Brooks is coaching the defensive tackles, while defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is coaching the linebackers and Charlie Harbison is in charge of the secondary.

Rumph feels this gives all the players more one-on-one time with their coaches.

"Everybody is speaking the same language and I think that is very, very important," Rumph said. "Coach Brooks can come over and if he sees something the defensive end isn't doing, then he can tell them the same thing I can. I think that is very important."

That should help the Tigers become more aggressive and creative in their schemes as well as be more instinctive. The entire off-season has become a self-study for Clemson. Instead of trying to copy or mimic what other teams have done, the Tigers have worked on themselves and they feel that's what can get them better, especially when it comes to rushing the passer in 2009.

"We have been studying us—Clemson," Rumph said. "There have been some days in that meeting room where we were all like ‘Wow! What is that?' So we are just trying to worry about us right now.

"We can't worry about Middle Tennessee. We can't worry about Georgia Tech, TCU or Boston College. We have to take care of our self right now and when the time comes we will move forward."

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