Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney didn’t really know what a lobbyist does until he went to the South Carolina State House one time.
But being around Ben Boulware this week, he has a full understanding.
After suffering an ankle sprain in Clemson’s 30-24 win over Troy on Saturday, Boulware has been doing his best to convince Swinney that he’s OK to play this weekend.
“I went to the state house one time, and I didn’t know that lobbyists were like real people,” Swinney said with a smile on Tuesday. “I didn’t really understand the concept of that. They really do hang out in the lobby, and that’s what Ben Boulware is right now. He’s a lobbyist.”
Boulware rolled his right ankle while blitzing on a third-down play late in the third quarter. He was attended to by trainers before walking off the field under his own power, but with a noticeable limp.
Boulware insists he’s fine, though, and is trying to prove it.
“He’s lobbying hard,” Swinney said. “He’s trying to show his great backpedal, how good he feels and there’s nothing wrong with him.”
Despite his efforts, the senior linebacker is being held out of practice this week and appears unlikely to play on Saturday against S.C. State.
If that’s the case, it would end Boulware’s streak of 16 consecutive starts and 23 consecutive games played.
“My plan is to not play him,” Swinney said. “Hopefully we can get it done without him this week. Right now I’d say we’ll probably dress him, and if we have to, play him. We have to do whatever we have to do to win the game. But if we can hold him, that would be the ideal situation for us.”
Clemson’s next goal is to win the division, and the Tigers will need a healthy Boulware to accomplish that. Holding him out against S.C. State should help ensure he is ready for Clemson’s next big test against Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Sept. 22.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Boulware could probably play this week, but that the rest will be good for him.
“He would be fine, probably, to come out and play,” Venables said on Tuesday. “He’s got a high threshold for pain.
“But he’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. We’ve got good enough players to come out and have an opportunity to play well.”
Sophomore linebacker Jalen Williams will get the start at WILL linebacker in Boulware’s absence.
Both Swinney and Venables have confidence in Williams to get the job done.
“Jalen’s worked hard,” Venables said. “He’s a good player. He’s made the most of his opportunities the first couple of games. He’s worked hard for those opportunities, and can do a variety of things, which you like that flexibility.”
Venables called Boulware the “quarterback” of the defense and admitted his emotional leadership on that side of the ball won’t be easy to replace.
But Venables has faith in the players behind Boulware to step up this week.
“Ben commands a lot of respect in that locker room,” Venables said. “I think that his teammates value what he brings to the table, and will more than step up and collectively fill that void.”