The toughest week of the season is upon No. 3 Clemson as it begins prep for Georgia Tech, who they will play on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Not only is it tough because it is a road game on a Thursday night, but the Tigers truly have just four days to get ready for the Yellow Jackets’ triple option attack.
“It is challenging when you have a long week. It is real challenging when you have a short week,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference call with the media. “We both have the same amount of time and that is the same for both teams. Certainly, with what they do, it creates a little extra strain because it is not something where we can say, ‘You remember last week when we saw this or that?’ because they are just so different offensively.”
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Paul Johnson’s offense has evolved over the years and there are more things to worry about than before.
However, Venables has had pretty good success at slowing down Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense. Last year, the Tigers limited the Yellow Jackets to 71 yards on the ground, a low in Johnson’s career as a head coach.
But it is doubtful the Tigers will have a repeat of that performance this year, especially with some many young players on the defensive side of the ball. Also, Tech is averaging 257.3 yards a game on the ground.
“They are not exactly the same. In principle they are, but they are doing some other things to help them so it will be new to our guys. So some things, yes, but other things no,” Venables said. “We will have to play really, really well. There will not be much margin for error.”
The good news is the defense will be a little rested. Thanks to jumping out to a 31-0 lead by the end of the first quarter in Saturday’s win over S.C. State, guys such as Christian Wilkins and Carlos Watkins participated in 12 plays, while linebacker Ben Boulware, who will play at Georgia Tech, was held out after spraining his ankle in the Troy game.
Clemson (3-0) had most of its defensive starters out by the beginning of the second quarter.
“It just worked out that way. You never really know when you get into the games on how it is going to go, but I think it is great Christian Wilkins only played twelve plays and Carlos Watkins only played twelve plays. I think that part of it is good,” Swinney said. “We got through the game relatively healthy and we were able to play so many guys so it was a definite plus.”
Clemson will practice this evening in what Swinney called a hybrid Monday-Tuesday practice. The he said Monday’s practice will be like Tuesday and Wednesday combined, while Wednesday will be just like the normal practices they have on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Tigers will due the normal prep they do on Fridays when they travel before loading the buses and heading to Atlanta.
Players will get Friday and Saturday off to regroup, while the coaches will be out recruiting.
Where is Leggett? Through three games, Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett has basically disappeared in the Clemson offense, or so it seems.
The 6-foot-5, 259-pound tight end has just one catch for nine yards thus far after he entered the season as one of the favorite to win the John Mackey Award which goes to the nation’s best tight end. He was a finalist last season.
Swinney said he isn’t worried. He believes it is just a matter of time before Leggett gets it going.
“We have just kind of been off a little bit,” the Clemson coach said. “We targeted him several times. We had him wide open for a touchdown against Troy and we just missed the throw. We had to clean up the route technique.
“We tried to throw a touchdown to him yesterday and we were just a little off with the timing. That will all come. He has had several opportunities and he has been targeted several times, it just has not quite clicked as easily. The ball has not gone to him based on coverage as much in these first three games. It is a long season and he is going to have a lot of big plays before the season is over with that’s for sure.”
Bryant is out. Swinney said last week it looked bleak for defensive end Austin Bryant to return for the Georgia Tech game after breaking a bone in his foot last month, but the Clemson coach confirmed on Sunday night Bryant will not play against the Yellow Jackets.
Swinney is confident the sophomore could be back for the Louisville game.
Other Injuries. Reserve wide receiver Adrian Dunn tore his ACL during his 30-yard punt return on Saturday, and will be out of the rest of the season.
Defensive back Denzel Johnson tweaked his hamstring so he will be day to day. Swinney isn’t sure if Johnson will play or not on Thursday.
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