|by Nikki Steele|
On paper, the Tigers appear to be the better team - but don’t think that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has let his team forget what happened two years ago in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The last time Clemson traveled to N.C. State, the 7th-ranked Tigers lost 37-13, and Swinney said that if they aren’t careful, the same thing could happen in 2013.
“It’s a great opportunity for our team,” Swinney said during his weekly press conference. “I’m excited about going on the road for the first time. I think you find out a lot about your team when you go on the road. This is not just any place we’re going. This is a huge, huge challenge going to N.C. State. They have good players and it’s a tough place to play going to N.C. State. We know that as well as anybody. We’ll have to play our best game to this point .We can’t make any critical errors because that will give the crowd energy and their team will feed off of that energy. I expect them to come ready to play at a very high level.”
After an off week, the Tigers are treating Tuesday as a Thursday practice as they prepare to travel on Wednesday.
“I know it’s Tuesday for everybody in here, but it’s Thursday for all of us as far as football is concerned,” Swinney said. “Today is completion day as far as finalizing the plan type practice from a script standpoint and then we’ll travel tomorrow.”
With the injury to wide receiver Charone Peake during the off week, Swinney said that the younger wide receivers will need to accept the challenge that the Wolfpack defensive backs present.
“Defensively, they are very active. Looking at them on film, this is the best group that we’ve played to this point,” Swinney said. “That first group is very, very good. They are creating a new line of scrimmage. They come of the ball with great intensity. They play well with their hands. There is a lot of movement and slanting. They are creating some problems as far as being able to target some guys because of their movement. We have to do a good job there. Their leading tackler is their middle linebacker – Robert Caldwell. Their DBs and in particular their corners are very aggressive. They will mix it up in coverage. They will challenge you. Our receivers will have to show up and accept the challenge because these guys are playing with a lot of confidence.”
However, with junior Adam Humphries leading the way, Swinney doesn’t expect any problems.
“As far as guys stepping up, Adam Humphries is a special player,” Swinney said. “We went into the season saying that we had four starters. Charone was mixing and matching playing the five and the nine in our first couple of games. Adam was playing the five and the two. We lose a great player, but we are fortunate to have another great player in Adam to step in and play. Where it hurts us is our depth because now you are bringing in young guys – G Hop [Germone Hopper], T.J. [Green] and Mike [Williams]. We also have Matt Porter. He can play any of the positions. He knows what he’s doing and he can get the job done.”
On the N.C. State offense
“N.C. State offensively, I’m very impressed with what they do. They do some of the same things that we do. They know what they’re doing. They really want to run the football and they‘re committed to that. That’s where most of their big plays come from – from a play-action standpoint so we have to do a great job. I love their backs. They’ve got a couple of guys that are big and strong and run hard. Their quarterback is a big, strong guy. He’s very instinctive and has made a lot of big plays for them as far as being able to scramble for first down in third and short or medium situations. He’s got a good feel and pocket presence. Their offensive line is big. I think they are 6-7 and their right tackle is 350 or so. We’ll have to play well against them. They’ve got a freshman No. 1 that that has been really good and they’ve been featuring him. And, then they’ve got No. 2 who is their return guy and their move guy. He’s a guy that you’ve got to keep an eye on.”
On Charone Peake’s recovery timetable
“We’re planning on doing Charone’s surgery right before the BC game because we have fall break and that will give him a little extra time without him having the extra pressure of having to get to class that week. We should have him back by spring ball. We probably won’t have contact in the spring, but we can put him out there in green and he can do everything, but we won’t tackle him. That’s our hope for him. “
On the possibility of Zac Brooks playing wide receiver
“He’s a running back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. It would be hard right now to stick him at wide receiver. If we got into a bind, he has good enough hands that we could put him out there. I know it sounds easy, but it’s a lot harder than people think it is. It’s a difficult transition for anybody. He has the hands. If we had a crisis situation, then you look at anything. Plus, we need Zac because he is bringing great things to our running back position.”
On the maturation of the younger receivers
“They’re ready. The S.C. State game was big for them just to let them kind of catch their breath. All freshmen go through a transition phase. When you open up with a team like Georgia, that wasn’t quite the stage for them and the game didn’t present itself where we really needed them. Had we needed them, they would’ve been in there. S.C. State was a game where they could just go play. We’re very fortunate to have Mike Williams and T.J. Green. These are two big, strong, athletic type bodies that are going to great players for us. I think they will have their share of moments this year. G Hop - I think he has a chance to be a really good player. I love his toughness. He’s not a big guy, but he’s not a small guys. He plays with such an edge to him.”
On MacKensie Alexander
“We’re not ready to make that decision after two ballgames. We evaluated where he was. He had six days off and where he did nothing. He’s a guy that will go out at ten o’clock at night and run. He’s a very driven young man. We just shut him down. He came back Wednesday and Thursday and Monday and then he’ll have this weekend off. Today he will have another MRI and ultrasound to see where we are. The plan is to get him through Wake Forest and reevaluate the Monday after the Wake Forest game. We feel like he’s making a lot of progress after watching him run and do the stuff that he’s been doing. It will be a matter of can he make the football type movements. The longer he’s out, the more likely it is that he’ll sit for the year, but we haven’t made that decision.”
Nikki Steele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org