Tigers' answer to Syracuse's pressure: protect and attack

Tajh Boyd: 'They'll do things that are going to give us an opportunity to make plays'

Clemson football - Tajh Boyd

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson football - Tajh Boyd

Dabo Swinney, Chad Morris and Tajh Boyd know exactly what's coming.

Syracuse's defensive game plan will be to disrupt the Clemson offense via pressure.

How much pressure?

"They'll bring it from everywhere," said Swinney. "They play cover-zero and bring one more than you can block. They've got six-plus starters back, and they're as aggressive as anybody we'll play.

"They force you to be sound, and they're not going to let you hold the ball. They try to force you into mistakes."

Clemson's plan to foil Syracuse's plan will be three-fold - win match-ups and protect up front, make the proper checks and reads, and then get the ball out of Boyd's hands quickly.

Boyd says if the Tigers do those things, there should be opportunities for big plays.

"We'll be as prepared as we possibly can be," Boyd said. "It's going to be all about going out and making the plays that are available. I feel like we have some of the best skill guys in the country, and we know Syracuse is going to take some risks.

"They'll do things that are going to give us an opportunity to make plays."

Swinney agrees that what Syracuse does schematically can create a challenge for the Orange's secondary.

"I just think that goes back to their philosophy in being aggressive in order to create pressure on the opposing quarterback," Swinney said. "If you can handle that well, then it puts the secondary in a bind because they have to win matchups, but that's easier said than done.

"They do a great job with their blitz package.

But from our perspective, the biggest thing is us being able to handle the pressure so that we can give our skill guys opportunities to make those plays."

Swinney says it helps having a quarterback who over the past three seasons has seen it all.

"Tajh has seen just about everything you can see," Swinney said. "All of his experience helps him. Against a pressure team, you have to know what you're doing, and the quarterback has to do a great job of preparation and recognition, and then of checking and making good decisions. That's why we practice."

Swinney said he's pleased with the progress being made by the Tigers' offensive line, which weathered a string of injuries and turned in a solid performance against Wake Forest.

"We've done a lot of good things up front," Swinney said. "We haven't had the continuity we'd like, but we have been able to develop a lot of guys. It's good to see guys like Kalon (Davis) and Shaq (Anthony) and (Isaiah) Battle and Mac (Eric Mac Lain) step up and take advantage of their opportunity to develop.

"That's going to pay off for us down the road."

For now, Swinney says the Tigers have already solidified their depth.

"Two years ago, we had a good first group, and then there was a big drop-off," he said. "I don't see that now. We still need to do things better, but there are no limitations from a physical standpoint. We've had a few communication issues inside, and there are a couple of protection issues I'm not happy with. But overall, I pleased with what we've done.

"Shaq is a little inconsistent, but he can do the things we need. We need for Giff (Timothy) to get back to being Giff, and I can't say enough good things about Kalon and (Tyler) Shatley. And Ryan Norton has just been awesome - he's the MVP of our first four games."

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