By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
CLEMSON — You don’t need to ask members of the Clemson defense if they are excited about playing No. 7 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“This is definitely exciting,” Clemson linebacker Spencer Shuey said following Wednesday night’s practice. “My favorite part of the game is the physical aspect of it. It is good to know that they are not going to go out there and try to trick us. They are going to go out, and it is going to be smash mouth football, which I think fits me the best.”
Though the so-called experts don’t seem to think LSU’s physical brand of football is a good matchup for 13th-ranked Clemson, the Tigers’ defensive players seem to welcome LSU’s north-south style on offense.
“It’s just a lot of pounding,” defensive tackle Josh Watson said. “They are a physical team with big guys. A trick play might be a toss. You know what I’m saying, like a halfback toss? That’s about it. Everything else you know is coming – a lead zone right there to the left. That fullback is coming He is a load, too.
“We just have to hunker up and get them down on the ground and stop the run.”
So far, Watson and other members of the Clemson defense have said practice has been very physical. They say they are sore every night, but they are battling through it because they know head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables are preparing them for how physical LSU is going to play.
Clemson has had a lot of good-on-good and has even used Paw Drills, where three down linemen on offense and three on defense go at one another to try and bring down the ball carrier. Paw Drills are mostly used during fall camp and spring practice, but the Tigers have started every practice with it the last three days.
“We have tried to create what they are going to see in this game,” Swinney said. “It’s just like when you play a triple-option team, you have to present what you are going to see from week-to-week the best way you can. This team we are playing, their style of play is by far the most physical of any team we have seen in quite a while so we are trying to do the very best we can.”
Breeland is out. Swinney says defensive back Bashaud Breeland will not play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl due to injury. Breeland has been limited by a groin injury that bothered him over the second half of the season.
The sophomore is scheduled to have surgery on Thursday.
“He had practiced some this month with the hope of getting him ready to play against LSU, but it is apparent he will not be well enough to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl,” said Swinney.
Breeland started five of the first seven games and had 30 tackles in those games. He played in just three of the last five and had just two tackles in 52 snaps. He played in 10 games and had five starts overall. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss, three passes broken up and a sack.
Sustained success: Clemson has been ranked inside the Associated Press and the USA Today Coaches Polls for 29 straight weeks, one of only six schools in the country that can make that claim. LSU is one of those six schools as well, but Swinney says the level of success LSU is at is much higher than Clemson’s.
For the last decade, LSU has won multiple SEC titles and National Championships, while competing at the highest level nationally year in and year out. Swinney says that’s where Clemson wants to be and that’s why playing LSU is an opportunity to prove that they can get there.
“That’s where we want our program to be,” he said. “You want to get to where you have eight years of sustained success where you are competing for your conference championship and competing for the national championship and recruiting at a high level and developing your players.
“Coach (Les) Miles has done a great job and so has that whole staff.”