Clemson University

New 'Bruise Brothers' hope to lead Clemson defense in Gator Bowl

Clemson defensive tackles Jarvis Jenkins (99) and Brandon Thompson have played a big role in the Tigers' late-season resurgence.
Clemson defensive tackles Jarvis Jenkins (99) and Brandon Thompson have played a big role in the Tigers' late-season resurgence.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was near the end of the Florida State game when Clemson defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins looked at fellow defensive tackle Brandon Thompson and said "This has to stop."

What had to stop was the way Jenkins, a sophomore, and Thompson, a freshman, were getting blown off the ball by a much smaller, quicker Florida State offensive line.

"We were getting embarrassed, so I looked at Brandon and said 'You better come with me, man, because I'm going to bring it.' We don't like being embarrassed and I think Brandon feels the way I feel," said Jenkins, who is 6-foot-4, 310 pounds. "We just have to lock down and dominate in the middle."

The two have dominated since then, and Jenkins and Thompson head into the Gator Bowl against Nebraska on New Year's Day seeking to earn a comparison to a couple of former Tigers who dominated a Nebraska offensive line in the 1982 Orange Bowl.

William "The Refrigerator" Perry and William Devane keyed Clemson's defensive game plan by controlling Nebraska's Dave Rimington, one of the best centers to play the college game. Rimington is the only two-time winner of the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior lineman, and the Rimington Award, given every year to the nation's best center, was named after him.

But against Perry, a freshman, and Devane, a sophomore, Rimington was worn down.

In those days, the Tigers used the two as the nose tackle, rotating them on every other play. The rotation wore opposing centers out and earned Perry and Devane the moniker "The Bruise Brothers."

Though he was not born until six years later, Jenkins, a Clemson native, was all too familiar with The Bruise Brothers. Growing up, he watched countless times how Perry and Devane dominated Remington and how the Tigers held the Huskers' powerful rushing attack to a season-low 193 yards in a 22-15 victory that clinched the Tigers' national championship.

"That defensive line when they played that was something serious," Jenkins recalled. "I have watched (that game) many times. It was unreal how they played. It seemed like every play they were going hard, and they kept on going.

"We should be just like that defensive line and we can be, but we have to put forth the effort."

Jenkins and Thompson started putting forth a new level of effort after the Florida State game. Since totaling two tackles while allowing the Seminoles to rush for a season-high 266 yards against the Clemson defense, Jenkins and Thompson have been the keys in the Tigers' ability to stuff the run in victories against Duke, Virginia and South Carolina.

In the three wins, Clemson allowed a combined 205 rushing yards or 2.6 yards per rush. In those three games, Jenkins recorded seven tackles, including two for a loss and a sack, while Thompson has 10 tackles.

"We were going to redshirt him, but when Rashaad (Jackson) got hurt that kind of changed, and I'm glad we didn't now because he has done a really good job," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He has gotten better and better during the course of the year and he is even further along. That will be big because we are losing Rashaad; we are losing Dorell (Scott) and losing Jock (McKissic).

"Now he has a year of experience, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity. He is a big run stopper. He is just a great physical specimen to have in there at the point of attack. He still has to work on his athleticism a little, but he gives you what you need in there, and that's a big strong body."

That strong body was no more evident than on a second-quarter play against Duke. Thompson, 6-foot-2, 290 pounds, broke through a double-team by throwing Duke's starting center and right guard like they were rag dolls as he flushed the quarterback into the waiting arms of Jenkins for a sack.

"People were in my way and I had to get to the quarterback," said Thompson, who had started the game for an injured Scott. "They were in my way so I had to get them out of the way."

Scott said watching Jenkins and Thompson play alongside each other this year has been fun, and he especially likes knowing that one of them is always lined up next to him when he is in the game.

"When Jarvis first got here, I thought to myself that he was big, but I bet he is slow," Scott said. "But he isn't. He is fast and he is quick. Brandon, no one can really move him. Both of those guys are going to really dominate next year when they get the opportunity."

It looks like they've already started.