CLEMSON -- Seeing Landon Walker surrounded by reporters Monday, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney paused in the West Zone, surprised with the media attention engulfing his right tackle.
Walker was in the media's crosshairs because of who will be in his on Saturday: Miami defensive lineman Allen Bailey and a talented Hurricanes defensive front.
Miami is second in the nation in sacks, averaging 4.7 per game, while Walker anchors the right side of a Clemson line ranking 17th in fewest sacks allowed (.67 sacks per game). The winner of the line battle might determine Saturday's ACC-opening contest at Clemson.
Walker compared the challenge of blocking the 6-4, 285-pound Bailey -- who owns a 4.65 second 40-yard dash -- as comparable to facing former Georgia Tech end Derrick Morgan.
Recall, in Clemson's first meeting with Georgia Tech last season, Morgan sacked quarterback Kyle Parker three times in the first half before Cory Lambert was replaced by Chris Hairston at right tackle.
"He's going to be just as hard to block as Derrick Morgan," Walker said. "Since he's also played inside, he's going to be tough competition as far as running plays, too."
Bailey is 11th on Mel Kiper's draft board and fifth in NFLDraftscout.com's 2011 rankings.
Bailey recorded seven sacks in nine games as a tackle last year before moving to end. Due to several Miami injuries, Bailey has returned to logging some time inside, playing 12 snaps at tackle against Pittsburgh.
Walker said the Hurricanes are able to get consistent pressure with their front four, which is ideal for a defense, allowing seven defenders to drop into coverage. The defensive line helped hold Pitt to three points Thursday.
While Bailey has one sack, Miami's other defensive ends Oliver Vernon (3.5 sacks), Adewale Ojomo (two sacks) and Andrew Smith (two sacks) have consistently reached the quarterback.
When the Hurricanes pressure, Clemson tackles and tight ends coach Danny Pearman said it's usually with one linebacker or safety, not exotic blitzes.
"They are not too overly complicated as much as they just beat you," Pearman said. "It's typical Miami. The biggest thing they do is they challenge you. They line up in the secondary and challenge you outside. They get 11 guys to the football.
"They are as athletic and physical a group as we've seen this season."
Clemson did not often help its tackles last year against Morgan with chip blocks or double teams, and Walker isn't expecting much help Saturday, though Ohio State doubled-teamed Bailey on occasion.
"They're not going to let a guy (dominate) a guy," Walker said. "But they're first going to give you the (one-on-one) opportunity."
The Tigers have extra incentive to pass protect this week with Parker being held out of practice last week with a sore back/ribs.
"I honestly felt there were a lot of late shots in the Auburn game," Walker said. "(Auburn) kind of got away with a little bit. I think they threw him down a couple times unnecessarily. We take pride in protecting Kyle. I want him to be healthy at the end of the season for his future, and we need to keep him healthy for us to be successful."
After performing well in a tough environment at Auburn last week, Walker said of the meeting with Miami: "I think we are going to continue to open a lot more eyes."
--The Tigers' game against North Carolina on Oct. 9 in Chapel Hill has been set for 3:30 p.m.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
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