Dabo Swinney knows his team will have its hands full Saturday night when it comes to trying to defend Virginia’s Lavel Davis and Tony Poljan.
The two Wahoos are two of the biggest pass catchers anyone is going to see in college football right now. Davis, a freshman receiver, stands at 6-foot-7 and weighs 210 pounds. Poljan, a senior tight end, is 6-foot-7, 265 pounds and they both are matchup nightmares no matter who they play.
Top-ranked Clemson (2-0, 1-0 ACC) has no one taller than 6-foot-3 on its back seven and that is freshman linebacker Trenton Simpson. But as Swinney said after practice on Wednesday, being tall is not everything.
“The first thing you have to do is you have to challenge them,” he said. “You got to get up there and compete with them at the line of scrimmage and try to make them work to get down the field. Then it is competitiveness on the ball, timing on the ball, all of those types of things. Re-routing people and not letting them have free releases and make them have wider arches and things like that. That cuts the field space down and uses the sideline as a defender as well, where the quarterback has to make a very precise throw because there is not much room to work with.
“So, you have to be physical with them and then, again, be competitive on the ball and just play with great technique.”
Duke tried to be physical with the Cavaliers (1-0, 1-0 ACC), but it did not go so well. Davis caught four passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while Poljan hauled in four passes for 44 yards in the Cavaliers’ 38-20 victory last Saturday.
Swinney says the key thing for his secondary and linebackers is to not be scared and to play big.
“Listen, I have been around a lot of short guys like Hunter Renfrow who played big,” he said. “They played 6-5 and I have been around 6-5 guys that played 5-10. So, it is more than just being tall. There is a lot more to it and hopefully, our guys will play big and play with the type of technique, fundamentals and physicality that we need to play with to, hopefully, have the type of body position that we need to be in.”
The Tigers will host Virginia at 8 p.m., at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. The game will be televised on the ACC Network.
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