Being a good teammate, Quandon Christian declined to reveal the name of the wide receiver he blanketed in coverage earlier in August camp.
Six-foot-two, 225-pound linebackers like Christian are typically unable to shadow wide receivers down the field so Christian did not want to give up the name, thinking it could be a source of embarrassment.
"I forgot who it was," Christian said while failing to conceal a smile.
Still, there is little reason for this unnamed receiver to feel shamed as there are few linebackers like Christian, a sophomore defensive coordinator Kevin Steele says is: "a different sort of animal."
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Christian is the rare linebacker who is so adept in coverage he can blanket wide receivers in addition to tight ends and running backs. Christian says he can run a sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash which allows him to run with most players on the field and might allow Clemson to field three linebackers more often than last season. Clemson played nickel defense on 62 percent of its defensive snaps last fall, meaning it subbed in an extra defensive back for linebacker to better defend the pass. Clemson will find it difficult to keep three linebackers on the field today at 3:30 p.m. against Troy's run-and-shoot offense.
"We have the ability to play with three linebackers because of Quandon,"
Steele said. "We can leave him out there and match him up with some people that you can't match other (linebackers) on."
Why is it important to keep three linebackers on the field? For one it gives an offense more uncertainty, Christian said.
"That's when you know you have a good defense when you can play a linebacker on a slot (receiver) and other wide receivers," Christian said, who earned freshman All-ACC honors last season. "You can bring blitzes from anywhere."
It also creates a stouter, heavier defensive front to better stop the run.
Even if Clemson opts to play most the game Saturday in nickel defense fellow linebacker Corico Hawkins said he and Christian will remain on the field thanks to their ability in coverage.
It's a testament to how far Christian has come.
Christian could always run. He claims he was the fastest player on his team at Lake View High School. But after spending a summer watching film and improving his technique Christian is more polished.
"I spent my summer working on what I knew and what I didn't know," Christian said. "You have to have knowledge."