James Skalski had to watch a host of young players get their first start at Wake Forest last Saturday thanks to a targeting call in the second half of the national championship game that kept him on the bench for the first half.
The senior linebacker entered the game in the second half, but he was proud of the way young players stepped up to fill his shoes and keep the Demon Deacons scoreless in the first 30 minutes.
Skalski felt the game plan and preparation ahead of the matchup with the Demon Deacons allowed young players to shine in the season opener for Clemson.
“I thought we had a solid rotation and we knew guys had to be ready. I like how it worked out that Jake [Venables] and [Baylon] Spector were such a solid group,” Skalski said. “In the second half me and Keith Maguire went in and all week that was the rotation, me with a mix of young groups.”
Nine players on the Clemson defense recorded their first start on Saturday night and Skalski left impressed with the young Tigers’ success.
“We had like nine new guys in their first ever college game, so I thought we looked really good,” he said. “I saw Keith running around making plays and LeVonta Bentley make a huge hit on fourth down. Seeing those guys be comfortable and play involved without worrying and them seeing things before it happened, it was good to see them play free and fast.”
As for the senior linebacker, he was just sitting on the sideline anxious to take advantage of his opportunity when the second half rolled around.
“I was very excited to play and was itching the whole game to get in there, especially during the first half,” Skalski said.
Skalski took advantage of his limited playing time with two tackles that included a tackle for a two-yard loss and a pass breakup. Now he has turned his attention to The Citadel and is excited to get back in front of fans at Death Valley this Saturday.
“I’m very excited to hear the roar of a crowd, it was really weird when you make a play and only hear your guys,” he said. “It felt a bit like practice but having that little bit of extra juice makes me excited.”
Clemson kicks off against The Citadel at 4 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
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