Clemson's young defensive line shows signs of progress

Josh Watson wraps up Logan Thomas in the third quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

Josh Watson wraps up Logan Thomas in the third quarter

Defense coming off best game of season

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Josh Watson wasn’t afraid to admit he got a bit of a gift Saturday afternoon.

Early in the third quarter, Clemson’s sophomore defensive tackle wrapped his arms around the legs of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and held on.

Thomas’ forward progress was stopped, but he still managed to complete a pass before officials inexplicably whistled a sack and four-yard loss.

“I was hanging around on his legs for dear life,” Watson said. “That guy is huge (Thomas is listed at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds). Tackling his legs – they always say tackle legs and they’ll go down. But his legs are like tree trunks. I don’t think he even felt me on him. They blew a whistle and I don’t know what happened. It counts as a sack. There’s no video to go with the sack in the record book so I got it.”

The Tigers’ defensive line can use the help.

Through seven games, Clemson has nine team sacks. There is reason for encouragement; five have come in the last three games, including two Saturday.

The Tigers’ line consistently got pressure on Thomas, who completed 15 of 28 passes for 202 yards with a touchdown against two interceptions; he did have 99 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries

Watson says he and his young teammates are making progress and maturing.

“It’s taking our coaching and applying it to games and not just practice,” he said. “Trusting our coaching, what they say is what we need to do. Rush lanes are key, and keeping them. (Thomas) got away from us some in rush lanes but maybe not as much as last year.”

Senior Malliciah Goodman, the line’s only upperclassman, got his first sack of the season after 300-plus snaps Saturday. He said it was a huge weight lifted from his shoulders following an open week spent working on pass rush.

Improved and more frequent rotations have helped the line’s production, Goodman said.

“That shows in the second half and fourth quarter where people kept coming at (Virginia Tech’s) offensive line, and the line was getting tired,” Goodman said.

Tajh Boyd a Davey O’Brien semifinalist: Clemson junior quarterback Tajh Boyd was named Monday as one of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback. Boyd averages 272.6 yards passing per game and has 15 passing touchdowns against six interceptions; he also has 251 rushing yards with four rushing scores.

Boyd joins Florida State’s E.J. Manuel as the ACC’s representatives on the list. Finalists will be named on Nov. 19, and fans can help determine them by voting for their favorite at www.voteobrien.org.

Clemson-Duke TV set: Clemson’s Nov. 3 game at Duke has been set for a 7 p.m. kickoff, with telecast by ESPN2. According to Clemson’s records, this will be the first-ever Clemson-Duke night game. The Blue Devils got bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994 with last week’s 33-30 win over North Carolina. Four of Clemson’s five road games will be night kickoffs, with a 3:30 p.m. kick at Boston College the only exception.

Meeks named ACC DB of the week: Clemson senior safety Jonathan Meeks was named ACC defensive back of the week following a career day against Virginia Tech. Meeks had two interceptions, returning one 74 yards for an important touchdown. He also had four tackles and a pass breakup. The interception return touchdown was Clemson’s first in over a year, and the Tigers’ longest interception return score since 2006. He is now fifth in Clemson history with 192 interception return yards.

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