Tigers miss Skalski's presence in practice, game day

Tigers miss Skalski's presence in practice, game day

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Tigers miss Skalski's presence in practice, game day

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Injuries have plagued fourth-ranked Clemson so far this season particularly on defense.

Starting linebacker James Skalski, defensive tackle Tyler Davis, linebacker Mike Jones and several other players on the Tigers’ defense have missed significant time in the 2020 campaign.

In Clemson’s double overtime loss at Notre Dame, and in its win over Boston College, Baylon Spector has stepped up to fill the shoes of Skalski.

While the Tigers expect to regain several key pieces on the defense when they travel to Florida State on Saturday, Skalski remains inactive.

Spector misses Skalski’s leadership on the field but his impact on the practice field has been the biggest void for the graduate linebacker.

“Definitely during practice week in and week out the things he brings to the table with his knowledge and experience on the practice field,” Spector said. “It’s different, he is a great physical player and even on the field he recognizes things and helps out younger players.”

Spector stepped up at Notre Dame and recorded a team-high nine tackles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery in the end zone that kept the Irish from scoring and gave Clemson an opportunity to take a lead with 3:33 to play in the contest.

He acknowledged Skalski still carries weight on the team and makes an impact despite his injury. But Clemson misses the leadership from the veteran middle linebacker on the field.

“He is the leader of the defense,” Spector said. “Even when he is not out practicing, he is leading and we are looking forward to having him back soon.”

Not only have the Tigers struggled defensively with the absence of their veteran leader. But the defensive back unit has yet to have a cohesive and consistent unit from week-to-week because of injuries.

“We haven’t had our starting group of defensive backs pretty much all year,” Spector said. “It affects our chemistry seeing different people back there.”

The young defensive backs like sophomores Andrew Booth, Sheridan Jones, and Joseph Charleston have filled in and held their own. But Spector knows the importance of chemistry and feels the Tigers are growing in that area.

“They are all prepared and do a great job but we have to continue to get better with each guy focused on his job, not on the bigger picture trying to do too much,” Spector said. “Chemistry and cohesiveness is a big thing, those that stepped in do a great job and will get better.”

Clemson hopes to bounce back from injuries after a timely open date as it travels to Tallahassee, Fla. to square off against ACC foe Florida State on Saturday.

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