Clemson University

Tigers' D wants to take a bite out of Harris

CLEMSON - A roar erupted in the defensive meeting room this week as Clemson poured through the Wake Forest game film.

Junior safety DeAndre McDaniel said opposing quarterback Riley Skinner got hit so many times, there was no telling when he "lost it."

When Andre Branch tackled Skinner for one of the Tigers' five sacks, Skinner's helmet fell off. McDaniel hinted that the blank stare on Skinner's face was like blood for the sharks.

If Clemson could do that to Skinner, a senior known for his mobility, it makes the Tigers' defensders imagine the possibilities with Miami sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris, a 6-foot-4 beanpole generously listed at 190 pounds.

"Jacory ain't a big guy," McDaniel said. "And I know some of them boys get a hold of him, there could be some damaging licks.

"He doesn't let too many things break him. That's going to be our goal, to change some of that this week. We're going to try to put a few licks on him and take his little spirit away."

Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele preaches the need to "affect" opposing quarterbacks, using aggressive schemes to pressure or confuse passers.

By and large, Clemson has succeeded, surpassing last year's sack total (17 this season, 14 in 2008) while holding three of six opposing quarterbacks to less than 100 passing yards.

Dabo Swinney said it is no secret getting Harris out of his comfort zone will be paramount if the Tigers (3-3, 2-2 ACC) are to upset the No. 8 Hurricanes (5-1, 2-1) today.

"But that's easier said than done," he added.

Harris' poise has become the stuff of legend. The hometown hero has commandeered decisive final drives in victories against Florida State and Oklahoma as well as a rout of Georgia Tech.

"We'll see if we can rattle him," linebacker Brandon Maye said. "He's pretty smooth."

Under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, Harris' only disappointment has been a 9-for-25, 150-yard showing in a downpour at Virginia Tech, wherein he was constantly harassed by the Hokies.

Considering Central Florida managed to sack Harris six times last week using a barrage of blitzes, it stands to believe the aggressive Steele will consider following suit.

Yet Steele cautioned if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Most teams do not rely on the blitz against Miami because that leaves a defense vulnerable to the big play.

And the Hurricanes have the talent at receiver, tight end and running back to make teams pay if Miami gets time to work a one-on-one match-up, as evidenced by 26 pass plays of 20 yards or longer.

"We can't just go in there and say we're going to throw caution to the wind," Steele said.

Clemson accomplished its goal of forcing the 6-foot-1 Skinner to "throw out of a well," as Steele says, pinning him inside the pocket and making him try to see over everyone to throw downfield.

Harris is no scrambler - he has 12 yards rushing - but Steele would not go so far as to say whether he hoped to flush Harris from the pocket.

"I don't really know," Steele said. "I'd rather have him on the ground, if you give me a choice."

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