Clemson heads to Notre Dame shorthanded on defense

Clemson heads to Notre Dame shorthanded on defense

Football

Clemson heads to Notre Dame shorthanded on defense

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For a second week in a row, top-ranked Clemson will be without three of its top players on defense.

The Tigers are already without linebacker James Skalski, who is out with a groin injury, and after practice on Wednesday, head coach Dabo Swinney announced Clemson will not have defensive tackle Tyler Davis or linebacker Mike Jones when they travel to South Bend on Saturday to play No. 4 Notre Dame.

Davis has been battling a lower leg injury, which he suffered the Wednesday prior to the Syracuse game on Oct. 24. Jones has a hamstring injury that is not completely healed. He suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Syracuse game when he tweaked his hamstring.

Both guys, along with Skalski, missed the Boston College game as well.

“I was hoping they would feel good today, but they are just not quite ready, unfortunately,” Swinney said. “Again, we can only take a certain amount of guys up there. They are just not quite ready to go.

“The good news is we have an open date next week and I fully expect both of them to be ready to roll full speed against Florida State.”

Freshman Bryan Bree, who has started the last two game for Davis in the middle of the defensive line, will be making his sixth start of the season for the Tigers.

“Next man up. That is just the way it is,” Swinney said. “It is always better when you have your best players with you for sure. We all know what Tyler Davis is capable of doing. It is just an opportunity for other guys to step up.

“Obviously, we want to have Trevor (Lawrence) with us, but it is an opportunity for D.J. to step up and play and show what he can do. It is what it is. We are certainly better with Tyler Davis than without him. But the challenge goes to the other guys. We got a good group. I am confident in those guys. Bresee has a ton of experience now. He is not a freshman anymore. Nyles Pinckney has played well for us. Jordan (Williams), Darnell (Jefferies) has to be ready to roll. So, we don’t have big numbers there, but we have to make it work.”

Freshman linebacker Trenton Simpson will likely start at strongside backer for Jones. Simpson has played in all seven games to this point for the Tigers. He has taken 95 snaps, including a season-high 29 in last week’s win over Boston College. He has 14 tackles on the year, including two tackles behind the line and two sacks.

“We were all hopeful (Davis and Jones) would make enough progress to make it to this week. I just don’t think that is going to be the case,” Swinney said.

Ladson and Ngata will be ready to play. Swinney said wide receivers Frank Ladson (hip pointer) and Joseph Ngata (abdomen) will be available to play on Saturday at Notre Dame.

Swinney said both pass catchers have looked good in practice this week and he expects they will play against the Irish.

Ladson, who sat out the BC game last week, has played in six of the Tigers’ seven games this year, catching 17 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns. Ngata, who has been dealing with the injury all year, has played in just three games and has six catches for 69 yards.

“I think he has had a good week of practice as well. I think it has been good to have him and Frank rolling, Obviously, they have been incredibly limited,” Swinney said. “Ngata, he is probably the best guy we got coming out of camp, and he has not really been able to do a whole lot. But he has had a good week. Hopefully, that will be able to transfer a little bit more into playing time.”

Clemson and Notre Dame kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be televised by NBC.

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