Click here to listen to Clemson coach Tommy Bowden's Monday Press Conference.
Along with the Tar Heels 33-31 loss to Arizona State, the Tigers fell at N.C. State 17-15 after being unable to set up a potential game-winning field goal despite taking possession at their own 47-yard line with 4:49 left in the game.
Clemson leads the series 32-18-1, and 15-7 when at home. Over the past four seasons, the team that has recorded the most rushing yards has won. In recent years, the Tar Heels have a slight edge, winning four of the last seven meetings.
In last year’s meeting Tigers’ quarterback Charlie Whitehurst completed just 12 passes, but four were touchdowns, to lead the Tigers to a 42-12 win in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes, but was outscored 42-3 throughout the remainder of the game.
Clemson is the all-time leader in ACC wins with 200. Maryland and North Carolina are tied for second with 177 apiece. The Tigers have conference wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia already this season.
Here’s IC’s weekly trip through the depth chart of UNC’s next opponent.
Charlie Whitehurst (6-4, 220, So.), the son of a former Green Bay Packers quarterback David Whitehurst, has his collegiate career off to an efficient start, averaging 267.2 yards per game passing in his first 12 starts. Currently in the ACC, he ranks second in passing behind the Wolfpack’s Philip Rivers in yards per game average (261.3) and total offense (260.7). In just five starts last year, Whitehurst set an amazing 22 school records as a redshirt freshman. According to The Sporting News 2003 preseason issue, Whitehurst has the strongest arm of any quarterback in the ACC. The backup is Chansi Stuckey (6-0, 180, Fr.*), who has completed just one pass in only three appearances this season.
The Tigers, ranked eighth in the ACC in rushing offense, are led by tailback Duane Coleman (5-10, 190, So.) who is averaging 48 yards per game at a 4.3 yards per carry clip. Having made just three appearances this year, Yusef Kelly (6-0, 230, Jr.) is not far behind Coleman statistically at 40.7 yards per game. Chad Jasmin (5-10, 225, Gr.) leads the team with three rushing touchdowns. Fullback Cliff Harrell (6-1, 260, So.) was the only offensive freshman to appear in all 13 games last season.
Statistically, the Tigers’ wide receiver tandem of Derrick Hamilton (6-4, 205, Jr.) and Kevin Youngblood (6-5, 215, Gr.) ranks higher, both in receptions and receiving yards per game, than better known twosomes such as FSU’s P.K. Sam and Craphonso Thorpe or N.C. State’s Jerricho Cotchery and Tramain Hall. Airese Currie (5-11, 185, Jr.), the reigning NCAA East Region 100m champion, is expected to be back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a sprained ankle. In five games this year he has 28 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns. Currie and Whitehurst combined on a 83-yard touchdown pass and catch in last year’s contest – the longest pass play in the history of Kenan Stadium.
In most effective passing attacks, an experienced line protects the quarterback. Left tackle William Henry (6-4, 295, Gr.) graded out higher versus the Wolfpack than any of the nine other Clemson offensive linemen that have played. Guards’ Cedric Johnson (6-4, 325, Jr.), Nathan Bennett (6-5, 312, Fr.*), center Tommy Sharpe (6-0, 270, Jr.) and right tackle Gregory Walker (6-5, 325, Gr.) round out the starters on the depth chart. But expect to see a lot of Roman Fry (6-4, 285, Fr.*) and Dustin Fry (6-2, 319, Fr.*) – no relation – who each made his first career start last week.
Bobby Williamson (6-3, 250, So.) is a bona fide receiving tight end with 11 catches for 92 yards this season. Ben Hall (6-5, 250, Jr.) is the two-deep and is used primary as a sixth offensive lineman.
One of the most improved players has been tackle Donnell Washington (6-6, 330, Jr.), who leads all tacklers on the defensive front with 28. He has four tackles for loss and a team leading 22 quarterback pressures. The other starting tackle is DeJuan Polk (6-2, 285, Gr.). Clemson began the season with starting ends J.J. Howard (6-3, 245, Gr.) and Khaleed Vaughn 6-4, 270, Gr.). But Howard tore his ACL against Maryland and is out for the year, and Vaughn is recovering from an injury as well. However, Maurice Fountain (6-4, 250, Jr.) and Vontrell Jamison (6-7, 280, Jr.) have stepped in and not missed a beat. Fountain, who made his first career start last week, had two tackles for loss and sacked Phillip Rivers once, while recording six pressures.
Leroy Hill (6-1, 220, Jr.) leads the nation in tackles per loss, averaging 2.57 per game. He also leads the team with five sacks. John Leake (6-1, 240, Sr.) and Dexter Reid rank one-two in career tackles among active ACC players. He is second best tackler with 71, and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week following the Georgia Tech game when he recorded 14 tackles. WHIP Eric Sampson (6-2, 205, Jr.) finished with 79 tackles last season, before being suspended for the Tangerine Bowl.
Opponents are averaging just 200 yards of passing offense per game versus the Tigers. Rover Jamaal Fudge (5-10, 190, So.) and free safety Travis Pugh (6-1, 195, Jr.) are the best tacklers of the secondary. Cornerback Tye Hill (5-10, 180, So.) is a converted tailback and Justin Miller (5-11, 200, So.) led the league in interceptions and kickoff return average last year, the first ACC player to do that since 1985.
Clemson’s numbers are at best ordinary in this category. Kicker Aaron Hunt (5-11, 216, Sr.) has an unimpressive 54.5 field goal completion percentage, including two missed extra points. Punter Cole Chason (6-0, 161, Fr.*) punts for a 38.8 average. Miller is the third-best kickoff returner in the conference with 25.5 yards per return, but Hamilton ranks as the league’s eighth best punt returner. However, only Duke has allowed fewer yards on kick returns that the Tigers.