Mum's the word on where Wilkins will play

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker (14) throws a pass as he is hit by Clemson Tigers defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (42) in the first quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says Christian Wilkins’ role for the second-ranked Tigers on Saturday at Auburn will be critical for their chances to win the game.

However, Swinney did not indicate what that role will be exactly. This much we do know. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound sophomore will start the game somewhere on the defensive line. On Tuesday, Wilkins was listed as the co-starter at defensive end and at defensive tackle.

Wilkins, who crossed trained in the spring at defensive end, moved outside two weeks ago after starting defensive end Austin Bryant fractured a bone in his foot. But Wilkins has also practiced at defensive tackle since the Bryant injury and defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the 2015 Freshman All-American has more than enough endurance to play both positions in a game.

Where he will play, however, no one knows. And Swinney isn’t saying.

“We have a good plan for Christian,” Swinney said during the ACC’s Coaches’ Teleconference on Wednesday. “His role will be critical in us having a chance to win the game. You could see him playing both or you could see him playing just one.”

Venables and Wilkins teammates have raved about the way the sophomore has played at defensive end in practice.

“He is a freak. There really isn’t anything he can’t do,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said.

Wilkins is listed as the co-starter at defensive end, along with redshirt sophomore Richard Yeargin. He is also listed as the co-starter at defensive tackle, sharing the honor with Scott Pagano.

Checking the oil. Swinney says he is anxious to get to the Plains and see his football team play on Saturday.

“I want to see how we are,” the Tigers’ head coach said. “We have had a month to practice against each other. When you go against yourself that long you know each other pretty well. You know the calls, you recognize the tendencies and things like that. As coaches, we can only take them so far so you need to see what they can do in game situations.

“It’s like checking the oil and seeing where we are. No matter what happens on Saturday, we will be a team that will greatly improve throughout the course of the year.”

Clemson and Auburn will kick off the 2016 season at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn. The game will be televised by ESPN.

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