Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will have to watch his back. Bjoern Werner is coming for him and he feels more prepared than ever. That's bad news for Boyd and Clemson's offense, as Werner has already racked up 6.5 sacks in just three games this year.
Werner leads the nation in sacks and spends more that an hour each day watching film on campus and dedicates time to film study before team meetings. He also takes his work home with him. The junior watches film at home and elsewhere on his iPad. He credits much of his success to film study.
"It's all film study," Werner said. "Every game you're going to make one or two big plays when you watch a lot of film (that you wouldn't have made otherwise)."
Coach Jimbo Fisher has noticed the work that Werner puts in and thinks that his dedication in tandem with his talent is responsible for his on-field dominance.
"It's remarkable what he feels and sees and his knowledge and study - it's not all natural but there's some natural there," Fisher said. "But he studies and works with the game, he does all of those things plus he has ability. He plays like he has no ability as far as his work ethic."
When studying film, Werner uses all resources available to him to maximize the benefit. Fisher noted that Werner has an uncanny instinct that comes from his eyes and how he reads and processes plays. That instinct is born in the film room and with every hour spent there comes increased familiarity with the opponents' strategy.
"If you study an opponent's offensive line, you know exactly (what they're going to do)," Werner said. "It's just instinct when you watch them everyday for a couple of hours."
Werner knows what a challenge this Saturday will be for the defensive, and in particular, the defensive line. Boyd is a mobile QB with exceptional arm strength who poses a threat both in and out of the pocket.
"He has two weapons, he has his arm and he has his legs," Werner said about Boyd. "And that makes him more dangerous because when you have an aggressive defensive line, we have to be smarter. I can't just speed rush every time because he's going to see me on the left side and is going to escape and get a first down. So everybody on defense needs to play smart."
Nick Waisome welcomes Sammy Watkins
Nick Waisome is not backing down. Sure, Clemson has some of the top receivers in the nation in Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, but Waisome feels ready for the challenge and is not diverging from his normal game prep.
"I just approach it like any other game," Waisome said. "They're going to have great receivers and I feel like we have great DB's. We're just going to have to go out there like a dogfight, come out on top."
Waisome is confident in his abilities to cover the speedy and physical Watkins. Waisome has simulated the match-up with teammates during practice.
"We go against (Kelvin Benjamin in practice) and I get that type of physical nature from him," Waisome said. "So I mean, (I'll probably just go) up against him a little bit more in practice
we've been just trying to work with some of the bigger receivers we have here."
The sophomore cornerback is impressed by Watkin's size and play, but is not intimidated. Waisome believes that the match-up will give him a chance to spotlight his skills.
Both he and freshman Ronald Darby are anticipating the match-up and the challenge. Darby, with whom Waisome splits some time, is a dual sport athlete and a track star. Waisome believes that Darby's speed will make for a good match-up with Watkins. Waisome said that he and Darby have the same goal going into the game.
"I'm going in there and I want (Watkins) to have zero receptions, that's just how I go about it," Waisome said.
Waisome is ready to strut his stuff in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday night.
"I'm looking forward to it a lot," Waisome said. "It's a GameDay game, everything's woo woo woo."
Receivers step into the blocks
As Chris Thompson broke out of a cut and tore down the field last Saturday against Wake Forest in the first of his two long touchdown runs, Kelvin Benjamin put up a block on a defender that resounded through the stadium and saw the Demon Deacon bounced off the field.
EJ Manuel took notice.
"Those guys have done a great job blocking for Chris (Thompson) or whatever running back downfield," Manuel said. "As you can see K.B. (blocking) on the sideline-almost on the third row."
Those are the sorts of blocks that Jimbo Fisher wants to see more of and expects from his wide receivers.
"We're big, we're athletic and we're physical and we need to be blocking like that all the time, that's what good football teams do," Fisher said.
The receiving corps is getting the message and have worked on their downfield blocks in practice.
"They were difficult blocks because they were long blocks," receiver Rodney Smith said. "You have to hold on to those defensive backs for as long as possible so the running back can break those big runs. Coach Dawsey and Coach Jimbo, they emphasize that a lot. They let us know, the offensive line gets the running backs to the second level and the rest of it is on the wide receivers. "
The run game was explosive against Wake Forest, racking up 385 rushing yards against the Demon Deacons and several key runs were punched in thanks to great blocks by receivers.
"You don't want it to be your fault that a running back doesn't score a touchdown," Smith said.
The offense will need that boost from the running game again against Clemson and the receivers will be looked to to continue blocking where they left off against Wake Forest.
"The receivers are blocking great down the field which has allowed us to break the home runs," Manuel said. "Hopefully we have the same result this weekend."
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