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Tigers face good Virginia Tech passing attack with banged up secondary

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente calls Clemson’s defensive line “pretty special.”

“I will tell you, the scouting report on their entire defensive line is big, aggressive, fast and physical,” he said Wednesday on the ACC Coaches Teleconference with the media. “They’re both equally disruptive in the run game and the pass game.”

Second-ranked Clemson, who will play Fuente’s No. 12 Hokies in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday, lead the ACC in total defense and ranked third nationally. The Tigers also lead the conference in pass defense and rank 9th nationally as well as 12th against the run and third in the ACC.

Up front is where Clemson has dominated. The Tigers have 17 sacks on the season, tied for second in the country. Eleven of those 17 sacks have come from the defensive line.

Defensive end Austin Bryant has five sacks, which is tied for the most in the ACC, while defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has 2.5, nose tackle Dexter Lawrence has 1.5 and defensive end Clelin Ferrell has one. Reserve defensive end Chris Register and reserve defensive tackle Jabril Robinson each have a half of a sack.

“I think it’s the strength of their defense, and they’ve got some really good players in the secondary and at linebacker,” Fuente said. “So it’s incredibly talented from front to back.”

However, if there is a weakness on Clemson’s defense right now, it is in the secondary, where the Tigers are banged up. The coaching staff moved K’Von Wallace from safety to cornerback to help with depth after Trayvon Mullen (concussion) and Mark Fields (glut) were injured in last week’s win over Boston College.

Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) was already short Marcus Edmond (foot) who has been out since the third play of the Auburn game. Heading into Wednesday’s practice, all three guys were listed as questionable for Saturday’s game at Lane Stadium.

If they can’t go, then either Wallace or true freshman A.J. Terrell will get the start at the boundary corner spot. Heading into the Virginia Tech game, Clemson is allowing just 134.5 yards per game through the air.

Hokies quarterback Josh Jackson is averaging 281.8 yards per game and leads the ACC in passing efficiency with a 177.4 rating. He has 11 touchdown passes to one interception.

“Clemson has been recruiting at a pretty high level for several years now. So they’ve got good players across the board and great depth,” Fuente said. “I see guys in the back end that are aggressive and well coached and physically talented and understand their scheme. They’re part of the reason they’re only giving up six points to a team like Auburn. I mean, they’re pretty darn good.”

Photo Credit: Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

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