By Ed McGranahan.
Pessimists who buy into the idiom that bad news comes in threes wonder what’s next for the Clemson football team.
After a relatively quiet preseason, on consecutive days this week Clemson lost running back Zac Brooks to injury and offensive tackle Shaq Anthony to transfer.
The team’s most athletic back, Brooks sustained a foot injury that ended his season. Brooks, of Jonesboro, Ark., will take a redshirt with the intention of returning next fall with two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Losing Anthony could be more critical at a position not blessed with experience. A third-year sophomore from nearby Wren High School, he told Coach Dabo Swinney of his intention to transfer after preparing as one of the first options behind starter Isaiah Battle and Joe Gore.
Depth should lessen the hit at running back with senior D.J. Howard, sophomore C.J. Davidson and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman already preparing to share the principle load with a couple of promising freshmen poised to assert themselves.
Swinney addressed his confidence in the team’s depth earlier this week, after Brooks’ injury but before he knew of Anthony’s intentions.
“You don’t want to lose anybody. Fortunately we’ve got good depth at all the positions,” he said. “When that if you lose a guy it’s not the end of the world. You can sustain a guy here and there when you have the proper depth built into your roster.”
By cross-training Kalon Davis, Eric Mac Lane and Reid Webster at both guards and both tackles, there are options though not without thinning the depth across the line. Jay Guillermo and Tyrone Crowder have prepared to move into more meaningful roles at guard, Guillermo and Webster and spell Ryan Norton at center.
In the past there have been players could not afford to lose. There are always those you just don’t want to lose. Imagine the angst a while ago when somebody rolled up on Battle’s ankle in practice.
“You would hate to lose a Vic Beasley, that’s for sure, but we do have depth there. We have guys that can play,” he said. “We don’t need to lose a quarterback. We don’t have great depth there
from a championship standpoint.”
Also, the season can be a grind on players needed extensively. Depth of talent affords opportunities to spread the load. “That’s a luxury we have not had.”
“You don’t have to kill people playing 50 plays and have to play 30 snaps on special teams,” Swinney said. “That’s not always been the case for us. One year I don’t think Spencer Shuey came off the field.
“It’s really nice because it gives us a lot of flexibility, to have fresh guys out there that can play the game,” he said. “Maybe they’re that fourth linebacker right now because there (are) some pretty good guys ahead of them and these are really talented guys your building your teams with.”
While the timing of Anthony’s decision was painful, Brooks’ injury was an unfortunate circumstance, though last season it was a shoulder and before that were ankle issues.
“To you have a great year you have to have a little bit of luck with injury situations,” Swinney said, though he pointed out it’s gradually gotten better.
“We really have a very good roster. One of the ways you know that is you go look at the scout teams,” he said. “You go, holy cow! That guy’s on the scout team?
“But that’s the way it should be if you’re going to be a great program.”