By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Gifford Timothy will get the start at right tackle for the 10th-ranked Tigers as they visit No. 4 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday night.
So what does the redshirt sophomore, who missed all of the Ball State game and played sparingly in last week’s win over Furman, get for such a prize? He gets to block FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner, who ranks second in the country with 6.5 sacks.
“We have not been challenged like these guys are going to challenge us,” Swinney said following Wednesday’s practice. “We are all going to find out a little bit more about our team Saturday.”
The Tigers (3-0) know all about Werner, though. Though he weighs 255 pounds, the 6-foot-4 defensive end has great speed. With All-American candidate Brandon Jenkins done for the year with a foot injury, Werner has picked up the slack. Besides his 6.5 sacks, he also leads the ACC in tackles for loss with nine.
So how will Timothy and his backup, Shaq Anthony, defend this speed rusher?
“You have to put yourself in good position first of all,” Swinney said. “In watching us last year, Landon (Walker) did a decent job with him, but he is a very experienced, knowledgeable player that kept himself in position. That’s the first thing you have to do.
“If you hesitate, or you’re late off the ball, or don’t kick properly, you are in trouble with a guy like that. That’s where it starts. You really have to be sound technically and stay in position to execute the block.”
What Clemson will have to do is try to keep Werner out of rhythm. Those things can be done by bringing in an extra tight end to help block him or chip him with a running back. Also, the ways in which the Tigers attack the All-American candidate can knock him out of rhythm, too.
“If it becomes a game where they can pin their ears back and go get the quarterback, it has probably not been a very good day,” Swinney said. “But if we can keep them off balance and stay on schedule, make some first downs then we are not one dimensional. That’s the real key. If we are one dimensional then we will have a hard time. “
Swinney also expects the offensive line that played against Auburn to play and be able to play the entire game if need be. Gifford, Tyler Shatley (right guard), Dalton Freeman (center), David Beasley (left guard) and Brandon Thomas (left tackle) played all but one play in Clemson’s win over Auburn to start the season in the Georgia Dome in Week 1.
“We are going to find out. I don’t know why they wouldn’t (go the whole way),” he said. “I think we have a little bit more depth than we had going into (the Auburn) game. We know a little more about our guys than we did going into the Auburn game as far as a couple of guys that can play.
“It’s only three games, but we are in a different situation than we were in that game. We are going to go with whoever is getting it done. Our guys are prepared to play eighty or ninety snaps or whatever it takes.”
Of the eight players that have played on the offensive line this year for Clemson, no one has taken fewer than 98 plays from scrimmage.
“That is a pretty good amount of work in the first three games,” Swinney said. “That is a real blessing in how things have turned out. We are a little more confident with the depth as opposed to the Auburn game.”