After what should be an exciting weekend at College Station on Sept. 8, Clemson will return to Death Valley on Sept. 15 for its third consecutive non-conference game of the 2018 football season as it takes on Georgia Southern for the first time ever.
The Eagles will have their work cut out for them as Auburn and Indiana were the only Power Five teams they faced last season and lost both games by an average of 34.5 points.
Last season was a struggle for Georgia Southern, as it went 2-10 overall and 2-6 in the Sun Belt Conference. However, after a few coaching changes the Eagles look to get back on track this season.
Chad Lunsford took over the program on an interim basis and although he went 2-4 in the six games he coached, he did get the Eagles’ only two wins of the season and was later promoted to head coach.
Offensive coordinator Bob DeBeese comes to Statesboro after a record setting six-year run as the offensive coordinator at New Mexico, where his rushing offense posted five consecutive top-10 national rankings in yards per game. Defensive coordinator Scot Sloan spent eight seasons as Appalachian State’s secondary coach and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in the spring of 2017 before joining Lunsford’s staff.
Georgia Southern also has several key guys returning, including sophomore Shai Werts who started all 11 games he was healthy for at quarterback last season. Senior LaBaron Anthony was Werts’ biggest competition but he held onto the No. 1 spot entering the fall.
On defense, the secondary is the strength of the Eagles with Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor holding down the corner spots along with Joshua Moon at safety.
In addition to those returners the Eagles signed a total of 23 players in 2018 class, including 11 who had three-star rankings from 247 Sports. Georgia Southern added 14 players on defense- four defensive linemen, cornerbacks and safeties apiece, and two linebackers, as well as nine on offense — a quarterback, running back, three offensive linemen and four receivers.
Although this game is probably not very high on the worry list of Clemson fans, Georgia Southern’s ground game is its strongest asset and something the Tigers should not overlook. DeBeese’s rushing attack at New Mexico led the nation with 6.61 yards per carry and 350 yards per game in 2016.
With the Eagles’ top two rushers, Werts and running back Wesley Fields, returning, it will not be a surprise if they try to keep this game close by pounding the rock and keeping Clemson’s offense off the field. It will however be a challenge for them as the Tigers arguably have the top defensive line in the country that is backed up by talented linebackers with veterans like Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar.
Clemson only allowed a total of five touchdowns on the ground last season, which was the fewest in the entire nation. With veteran linebackers along with Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Dexter Lawrence returning, the defense should be even better this year than it was last year.
In reality, the Tigers should have no problem leaving with a win, but you never know what can happen.
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