Stopping Morgan paramount

CLEMSON - Chris Hairston doesn't believe Clemson played well enough to win Saturday's game against South Carolina.

That, he said, was reflected on the scoreboard of the Tigers' 34-17 loss to the Gamecocks.

And Hairston held himself accountable for what happened, calling the performance "uncharacteristic" by him, Landon Walker and David Smith.

On paper, it seemed Clemson would have been able to gain more than 48 yards against a South Carolina defense that had previously only given up less than 100 yards to N.C. State, Florida Atlantic and Arkansas.

With a rematch pitting Clemson against Georgia Tech in this Saturday's ACC Championship game, rushing with success against the Yellow Jackets appears to be very possible, maybe even likely. Also a loser to an in-state SEC East opponent last weekend, Georgia Tech gave up 339 yards on the ground to Georgia.

"We want to be able to rush the ball and impose our will," Hairston said. "We weren't able to do that (against South Carolina)."

Along with trouble rushing, the pass blocking also proved to be an area of concern. Though Kyle Parker was sacked just once, the offensive line, at times, seemed porous against the Gamecock pass rush.

"A lot of guys were trying to make a play, trying to do a little more than what's asked of them, which is good for effort and intensity," he said. "You've got to stay within the scheme and stay within your gap, like those guys on defense say. You've got to be able to make your block and do it the right way, with technique."

The struggles up front against South Carolina were "a good lesson," according to Thomas Austin, who shakes off the loss with the ease that's expected of a senior who's started 34 straight games on the offensive line.

"You can't get complacent. There's a fine line between confidence and cockiness and that's something we have to continue to balance."

Along with paving the way for the rushing attack, the Clemson front is charged with the task of slowing Georgia Tech's All-ACC first-team defensive end Derrick Morgan.

In the first half of this September's game, he sacked Parker three times. Just before the end of the half, Hairston was shifted over from left tackle to right tackle.

Morgan has 12.5 sacks and 35 tackles (17 for loss) this season. Of the elite pass rushers he's seen, Hairston speaks of Morgan like he's the best.

"He's a more complete player than Everette Brown. He's bigger than (Jerry) Hughes. He can get in there and stop the run," Hairston said. "He might not have the pass rushing repertoire that Brown had…but he's still a great player."

Austin and Hairston are confident in the abilities of Walker and Smith to fend off Morgan. The Tigers' right tackles have shown twice since that they're capable of blocking quality pass rushers.

"(Walker) didn't give (Texas Christian's) Jerry Hughes a sack and didn't give N.C. State's (Willie Young) a sack," Austin said. "Landon is a very capable player. I know he'll have his mind right to do that."

"I feel like (Walker and Smith) are really going to have a great game Saturday," Hairston said. "With the way they prepare and practice, they both come in ready to play on Saturdays." Top Stories