By Trey McCurry.
Entering November, Clemson is not where most fans thought it would be at this point of the season. Now, at 4-4, the Tigers must at least split their next four games (including three against teams currently in the top 25) to even make a bowl. The road to that starts with a home game against a hot 6-2 NC State team Saturday. Head Coach Dabo Swinney met with the media Tuesday for his weekly press conference to discuss the upcoming matchup with the Wolfpack.
“NC State is a big challenge. They are playing well on both sides of the ball. We will have to do a super job, starting with stopping their offense. They throw for almost 300 yards per game. They do a great job on first down; in fact they lead the league. It all starts with Russell Wilson. He is playing at a very high level this year. He is getting the ball to a lot of people. He has been effective running and throwing. They have four really good wide outs and spread you out to try to create matchup problems. The tight end and fullback are both very good. Mustafa Greene has really good vision at running back. He is a true freshman and showed up big in the Florida State game.”
“Defensively, they are playing very confident. There is an obvious influence of Coach Jon Tenuta in the defense. We are very familiar with him from his Georgia Tech days. They already have 24 sacks this year. Nate Irving is a lot like Wilson, he is a special big time player at linebacker. He plays at a very high level with a lot of intensity. All of the defensive line that played against us returns from last year and they have some depth up front. The secondary is young, but the three sophomores all started last year.”
The biggest news of out Clemson in the past few days was the word that Tajh Boyd will get some playing time, beginning this week. Swinney took quite a bit of time Tuesday to address that issue.
“I meet with them every week and am always talking to player. KP did not play well at Boston College, but he is not the reason we have lost four games. KP is a very good player. I expect him to come back. He has to perform better. If he doesn’t, he won’t be in there. He will have the opportunity to get back out there and play Saturday. Right now there is no controversy around here. KP has represented Clemson in a first-class way for three years and in two sports. One game is not going to change that and it shouldn’t for anyone. He didn’t play well up there and has to play better and he knows it.”
“Guys are continuing to battle and we need to try to play Tajh. Over the remainder of the season, you can expect to see him playing. We have to get him in there to continue to develop him. I had hoped things would be different with some of the games. KP still give us the best chance to win right now and I want to win right now. Tajh has gotten better each week and I am excited about the future with Tajh and the weapons around him. This weeks conversation was no different than the other weeks. I told him he is ready and we have to force the issue and get him in there a little bit. We need to prepare well in practice and get him some game time some how.”
Another key thing this week has been the injury to Andre Ellington and how that will impact the running back position.
“This will be McDowell’s opportunity. He will step up and show he is ready. He has practiced hard and gotten better. He has some growing up to do, but he is a good back. I tell guys you have to prepare because you don’t know when you will get the opportunity. Hopefully Rod has been mentally doing that. He gets a big first test this week. It is a challenge for Jamie to step up and play better as well. Jamie is the starter and I think he will respond, but he can’t play the whole game. We have to get Rod in there and hopefully he will give us a spark.”
Swinney also addressed the kicking situation Tuesday. “Richard is going to get his opportunity. I am very proud of him. Here is a senior that lost his job and got beat out fair and square. He hasn’t pouted, he has shown up and been very supportive. We will give him the opportunity to see if he can finish this season, and his career, off at Clemson. He will be the starter against NC State.”
An interesting point Tuesday was when Swinney was asked what the team is playing for now.
“We play for Clemson. We play to win against NC State. We play for each other. Anything can happen if you keep believing and working hard. It is about playing for Clemson. There guys have done that. It is about playing for those guys next to you and having the best season you can have. We are on the path to success. That path is usually not that smooth, but that is the road we are on. I am very confident in where we are. I am not happy that we are 4-4, but that is where we are. To me, the glass if half full and always will be. A lot of guys like to say it is half empty, but that is not me. This season is not over and we will play hard against NC State.”
The Tigers look to get back on track Saturday at noon against the Wolfpack. Saturday’s game will be Clemson’s annual Military Appreciation Day.