After coming off the bench to lead Clemson to its seventh ACC Championship in the past eight years, true freshman Cade Klubnik is set to make his first collegiate start on Dec. 30 when the seventh-ranked Tigers take on No. 6 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl.
What does Dabo Swinney expect to see from Klubnik in the top-seven matchup when he runs out first at quarterback for the Tigers for the first time?
Clemson’s head coach was asked that question when he spoke to media via Zoom on Sunday afternoon to preview the Orange Bowl.
“Hopefully just, first of all, great preparation like he’s been having,” said Swinney, who named Klubnik the starter for the Orange Bowl following the ACC title game.
“But then just playing within the system and just being smart with the ball and doing what he’s supposed to do. I thought he did an amazing job of that last night.”
In Saturday night’s 39-10 ACC title game victory over North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, Klubnik replaced starting quarterback DJ Uiagalelei on Clemson’s third drive and led the Tigers to scores on five of his first six drives, including touchdowns on each of the first three.
The former five-star prospect from Texas finished the game 20-for-24 passing for 279 passing yards, added 30 rushing yards and accounted for a couple of touchdowns – one through the air and one on the ground, his first career rushing score – en route to being named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Klubnik opened the game 10-for-10 for 149 yards prior to his first incompletion late in the second quarter. His 83 percent completion percentage for the game set a new ACC title game record.
When the Tigers face off against the Volunteers later this month at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., Swinney hopes to see the 6-foot-2, 195-pound frosh pick up where he left off against the Tar Heels.
“He was accurate, made good decisions outside of maybe one or two in the run game,” Swinney said. “He extended some plays and did some things with his legs.
“So, just continue to again, play within the system, bring that great energy and protect the football.”
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