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Seminoles look out for No. 1

FSU faces Clemson with an emphasis on defending quarterback Woody Dantzler.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 3, 2001


CLEMSON, S.C. -- Florida State cornerback Stanford Samuels has a suggestion for how he and his teammates best can contain Clemson's multitalented quarterback, Woody Dantzler.

"We need a 12th man; a 12th man who has just Woody," he said.

That's not enough if you ask FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. He would prefer a baker's dozen against Dantzler, whose passing and running skills have drawn comparisons with Michael Vick.

"What you need is about six guys who can rush and about seven more who can play the pass," Andrews said.

The NCAA isn't likely to draft a special Dantzler Rule in time for the Seminoles' game against Clemson this afternoon at Memorial Stadium, so what will Samuels and company do?

Not that it's original thinking, but they will focus on Dantzler, who wears jersey No. 1.

Every defense is predicated on slowing down the Tiger with the powerful right arm and powerful legs. He has thrown for 1,483 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 678 yards and seven touchdowns. His average of 308.7 yards total offense is tops in the ACC and fifth nationally.

"That's good if they're going to focus on me," Dantzler said. "That means they're forgetting about everybody else on the team."

That plan, for the most part, has failed against Clemson.

Dantzler, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior, thrust himself in the Heisman Trophy picture after shredding Georgia Tech for 418 total yards and North Carolina State for 517 in successive games in mid October.

"When he's hot, he creates as much pressure on you defensively as any offense you'll play against," Andrews said.

Not as any other player.

As any other offense.

"Most teams dedicate a lot of attention, maybe 50 percent of the attention, to a 1,000-yard tailback as a rusher and maybe if you have a 2,000-yard thrower, he may get the other 50 percent of the attention," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "In our case, that's one guy. He gets all the attention in the running game and the passing game, which is kind of unique. It kind of makes every performance that he has kind of unique if it's productive because he is the focal point of the offense until we have a young guy that steps up at a skilled position or back."

Bowden concedes it's a huge burden for Dantzler, but then neither has a choice. The Tigers have young receivers, and while tailback Travis Zachery rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, he has gained 362 this season.

"The best thing to do," Bowden said, "is to get the ball in the best guy's hands and see if he can do something."

Those hands belong to Dantzler. Against North Carolina, a defense that shut down FSU, Dantzler didn't do much. He amassed 116 yards in a 38-3 loss. Then, most teams don't have a defensive end like the Tar Heels' Julius Peppers.

Clemson had Dantzler sprint out once and Peppers deflected the pass and plucked it out of the air, setting up a touchdown for a 14-3 lead.

While FSU's defensive strength historically started with All-American ends, that isn't the case this season. Nor are the Seminoles likely to resort to a "spy," one player -- a linebacker or safety -- dedicated to shadowing Dantzler. Andrews isn't a fan of gadget defenses.

"You don't get far away from what you've been doing," he said. "How can you get good at something in three days? We don't get far away from what we've done. We just try to get better at it."

The Seminoles' youthful defense has surrendered a large number of big plays. Last week, a couple of FSU players misplayed an option by Maryland quarterback Shaun Hill, allowing fullback James Lynch to burst up the middle for a 65-yard touchdown.

Hill is no Woody Dantzler.

"We've got to be very disciplined," sophomore linebacker Michael Boulware said. "With a guy like him, you've got to have a whole team coming after him and the whole team doing its job."

If even one player is out of position or misses a tackle ...

"(No. )1 may go to that good grass," Samuels said, referring to the end zone.

"He's one of those players you keep holding your breath every play thinking he's going to do something," senior safety Abdual Howard said. "If you don't do your job, it's really going to be magnified. He takes advantages of all weaknesses."

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