There are a lot of days and nights when Clemson is going to match up well with an opponent because of its talent and depth.
However, No. 5 Clemson’s talent advantage and depth will go to another level on Saturday when it travels to Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina to take on NC State. The Wolfpack are a battered and bruised football team, a team that has been decimated by injuries this season.
In all, 12 players are out for the season. Nowhere has that impact been felt more than at cornerback, where they have already lost three players for the year and another, senior Nick McCloud, has missed the majority of the season with a knee injury.
Taiyon Palmer (knee), Chris Ingram (knee) and Teshaun Smith (shoulder) are all out for the season, while McCloud has missed most of the year after he injured his left knee in a win over East Carolina early in the season.
“They have three of their best corners hurt. So, they have had some tough injuries,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Dave (Doeren) does an awesome job of coaching. Those guys play tough, they play physical and they move the guys in those positions to give them the best chance to be successful.”
To counter the injuries, NC State has moved a few of their safeties over to cornerback. Because of that, the Wolfpack has struggled against the pass. Their opponents are averaging 243.1 yards per game, while completing 63.6 percent of their passes. They have allowed 10 touchdown passes and have just three interceptions.
With these kinds of issues, playing Clemson, with its bevy of 6-4, 215-pound receivers and quarterback Trevor Lawrence, it is not a good matchup for the Wolfpack.
“This is a tough matchup for them. There is no doubt about that,” Swinney said. “These guys are going to be a tough matchup for anybody, though. It does not matter if you play corner everyday of your life. Tee (Higgins) and these guys are tough. They’re tough.
“It is my job to have them ready to play at a high level. Whoever we play this week, and any week, they should be a handful and they should always be tough, especially with the type of balance that we can have.”
Swinney expects NC State (4-4, 1-3 ACC) to continue to be a hard out for the Tigers, though, despite the injuries.
“They continue to do what they do. That is the other thing. He is trying to build his team,” the Clemson coach said. “They are capable of beating us. There is no question about it. We are going to have to go play well.
“But I do think that is a good matchup, but those guys are good players. Sometimes, you have guys that have to play out of position. We had to do that with Christian Wilkins (in 2016). He was D-tackle and had to go play D-end. Sometimes that is just what you have to do, but it starts up front with them. They have a pretty good group up front. They do a nice job.”
Swinney specifically talked about defensive end James Smith-Williams, nose tackle Alim McNeil and defensive tackle Larrell Murchison being very disruptive on the defensive line.
“They are good football players. They have a good scheme that creates some problems,” Swinney said. “Very few people have run the ball on them. I know Boston College had a day and had a few unique things, but we just have to go up and try to execute at a high level regardless of who is out there.”
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