Tigers prepare for Gamecocks, Swinney announces seniors who are leaving


by - Senior Writer -
KJ Henry hasn't made his decision on whether to turn pro or return for next season.
KJ Henry hasn't made his decision on whether to turn pro or return for next season.

A group of veteran players decided to use the NCAA waiver and play as “super seniors” this season, but a small group of seniors who still have eligibility remaining has decided to move on.

Clemson (8-3, 6-2) defeated Wake Forest 48-27 Saturday on Senior Day and opened up as a 14-point favorite over the Gamecocks (6-5, 3-5). The game will kick off at 7:30 pm and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Swinney said he was proud of the way his team played in the win over the Demon Deacons.

"I'm proud of our team and how it performed yesterday. I appreciate our crowd. They let their presence be known early. They definitely affected Wake Forest,” Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference.

"Defensively we set the tone. That's not a team that punts often. We came out of the gate with a sack. We had eight sacks, our most on the season. We had seven three-and-outs. We had a lot of guys show up and make contributions. We had some critical moments and red-zone stops. Our D-line won the line of scrimmage. We played the ball well for the most part. We got a little sloppy there at the end as far as leveraging and spacing.

"Offensively, certainly it was our best game of the year. We averaged 6.2 yards per rush and 7.3 yards per play. We had big plays in both the pass and run game. We were 8-of-12 on third down. We were even in turnover margin but got 14 points off turnovers and they got none. I'm just proud of how we finished the game in the fourth quarter. It was a physical, clean, well-executed game across the board.

"All in all I was pleased with the overall performance and how these seniors finished their careers. The punt return was a tough break for us. That was very well blocked. I hate that it didn't get to stand. It was the right call, though. For sure. Will Spiers only punted once and another great day by BT Potter.”

Swinney announced that freshman defensive tackle Tré Williams is out for the rest of the season.

"Injury-wise, Tré Williams is done for the season. He has to have shoulder surgery, foot surgery and he wanted to play as long as he could,” Swinney said. “But he's definitely done now. I am really proud of him. Both shoulders have been strapped in all year long. We'll have to finish out with him. We'll get him well. What a great player he is going to be. He got in 11 games of experience this year. We'll see where some of these other guys are tomorrow."

Swinney said he didn’t have an update on the status of injured wide receivers Joseph Ngata and EJ Williams.

TigerNet asked Swinney about some of the seniors who ran down the hill Saturday – they have the option of returning next season – and he said that tight end Jaelyn Lay, defensive tackle Darnell Jefferies, offensive lineman Tayquon Johnson, and linebacker Jake Venables have decided to move on while defensive end KJ Henry is still working on a decision.

"He's (Lay) going to graduate in May and wants to finish up. He is going to get a master's degree somewhere else,” Swinney said. “Same with Darnell Jefferies, who is graduating in December. KJ Henry, I don't think he's made a decision yet (regarding NFL Draft). He's not sure. Tayquon declared himself as a senior back in the summer. He is going to graduate in May and has a job lined up in law enforcement. I think he's going to stay in the state of South Carolina. He's super excited about it.

“Jake Venables is graduating in December. He has torn his hamstring eight times. He's just trying to get to the finish line. This week is the first time he has been healthy. He missed all of camp and has been hurt all year. He's just at a point where he is ready to move on to the next stage of his career. His body is just not holding up for him."

Now the Tigers will prepare for the Gamecocks.

"You start over on Sunday and get ready for the next opponent. It is our last game, the regular season and it is your rival game,” he said. “It's always fun to prepare for this one for sure. Definitely, there is a lot of different personnel since we last saw them. They had a huge win last night. Shane (Beamer) has done an awesome job in building that team and they have overcome some adversity."

Swinney said it won’t be hard to get his team ready for South Carolina.

"Turn on the tape. Y'all will help us out in that for sure. This will be a talked-about game. They will get that vibe from everywhere,” he said. “Everyone talks about it throughout the state. Turn on the tape and see that they have done well and have good players. They run it well, they have some good skill guys outside, a big offensive line, a good defensive line, so our players will see that. We have to go back to work. We have to have good meetings, good practices and get ready.

"This game is a stand-alone goal on our goal board. Everyone knows that this is a very important game to a lot of people. You're playing for a trophy. We're excited about it. Always a special week for both teams."

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