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Clemson Knows What It’s Like to Stop Dantzler

Clemson Knows What It’s Like to Stop Dantzler

Oct. 19, 2001


CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson defensive tackle Donnell Washington understands, maybe as well as any defensive coordinator, the ridiculous challenge of stopping Woodrow Dantzler.

While he feels the opponent’s pain, Washington doesn’t feel sorry.

“He’s on our side,” Washington said with a grin you could almost see over the phone.

North Carolina (4-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) is next up to try to corral Dantzler when it meets No. 13 Clemson at Death Valley on Saturday.

Washington knows how difficult it is to chase down someone who shakes to the left goes right, who is surrounded by four defenders behind the line of scrimmage, yet shimmies free for long gains, who rolls away from charging lineman, reverses field and floats TD passes to uncovered receivers.

“He does that to us every day,” Washington said. “He’s great on the field, and he’s a great practice player.”

Washington can imagine the frustration for Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, both stung for big games by Dantzler.

Dantzler had 418 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-44 overtime win against the Yellow Jackets, then followed that with 517 yards and six touchdowns to beat North Carolina State 45-37.

North Carolina coach John Bunting says the only plan he has to contain Dantzler is “13 players and a crystal ball.”

How about someone like massive Tar Heels lineman Julius Peppers to shadow Dantzler?

Bunting, formerly co-defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, says he tried that in the Super Bowl two years ago against Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair.

“It was awful,” Bunting said.

He said the shadow guy stood there watching McNair while the rest of the defense carried on their assignments.

“What you want to do is to try to find a crack to get to the quarterback and envelop him as best as you possibly can with the shadow guy and rush,” Bunting said. “But it very seldom happens because it’s a hard thing to practice.”

And even if you could practice, almost no one can mimic Dantzler’s moves.

“Basically, I’ve got the hand of God on me right now, along with a bunch of fellows who are working hard together on offense,” Dantzler said.

North Carolina defensive tackle Ryan Sims, who played at Dorman High in Spartanburg, has watched more than enough of Dantzler, an Orangeburg-Wilkinson High star, through the years.

“He would just kill teams with his running ability,” Sims said. “Then when they made him pass, he would hurt them with the pass. He’s been doing this a long time.”

But never with the style and authority of the past two weeks.

He and his teammates were booed by home fans after losing to Virginia 26-24 on Sept. 22 and was on the verge of a benching from Clemson coach Tommy Bowden after fumbling early against Georgia Tech.

Dantzler responded with what many thought was his best game against the Yellow Jackets, at least until facing North Carolina State two weeks later.

Dantzler beat Tech with an 11-yard TD off a quarterback draw.

Against the Wolfpack, Dantzler did whatever was needed. He had scoring runs of 55 and 8 yards and touchdown passes of 10, 7, 22 and 4 yards.

Bowden says he’s had some terrific runners and stellar passers, but “Woody’s it as far as the total package.”

Dantzler’s running skills along with his accurate passing – he’s completed almost 69 percent of his throws this year – “kind of separates him from the pack,” Bowden said.