Can depleted secondary rise to Saturday's challenge?

by - Senior Writer -
Breeland, shown here against Wake Forest, will miss the first half Saturday
Breeland, shown here against Wake Forest, will miss the first half Saturday

CLEMSON – Clemson’s already-thin secondary will be even thinner when the Tigers play at Maryland this Saturday.

Clemson travels to College Park to take on a Terrapin team that is reeling offensively after suffering a 34-10 loss at Wake Forest last Saturday. In that game, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown – in his first game back after missing a week – was benched in favor of Caleb Rowe in the second half.

Maryland also lost their top two receivers for the season Saturday, as both Deon Long and Stefon Diggs suffered serious leg injuries. Diggs led the team with 520 yards on 26 receptions and three touchdowns, while Long led the team with 28 receptions for 446 yards and a score. In all, Diggs and Long account for more than half of the team's total receptions.

The Terps were already without key reserve Tyrek Cheeseboro, who sustained a concussion last month after getting hit by a bus while riding a bicycle.

That depleted receiving corps will face a Clemson secondary that lost freshman MacKensie AlexanderMacKensie Alexander
Fr. Defensive Back
#2 5-11, 185
Immokalee, FL

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before the season started, and he recently had surgery. That left Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland
RS Jr. Cornerback
#17 6-0, 195
Allendale, SC

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, Garry PetersGarry Peters
RS Jr. Cornerback
#26 6-0, 195
Conyers, GA

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, Darius RobinsonDarius Robinson
#8 5-10, 175
College Park, GA

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and Martin JenkinsMartin Jenkins
RS Jr. Cornerback
#14 5-10, 180
Roswell, GA

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as Clemson’s most experienced corners, but Peters suffered a foot injury last week in practice and will be out at least another two weeks.

During Saturday’s loss to Florida St., Breeland was ejected after being penalized for a blow to the head of Florida St. quarterback Jameis Winston. Per NCAA rules, he must sit out the first half of this week’s game Maryland.

Jenkins told the media Monday that the secondary has to be ready for anything, but playing short-handed in the first half shouldn’t be an issue.

“We are definitely ready. You have to be prepared for anything in this sport,” Jenkins said. “Whoever it is, we have to go out there and do our job. We just have to be ready for anything.”

Jenkins has spent a lot of time at the nickel spot this season, but was pressed into duty at corner after Breeland went out Saturday.

“I knew that me personally, I had to be ready for anything,” he said. “That is why I have trained at both corners, both sides and nickel. The coaches knew that and they just threw me in there and I was ready. That was already my mindset going into that game without Garry, because I knew that if something else happened I had to be ready.”

Swinney said Sunday that some other reserves could see time at Maryland if the need arises.

"We've got Jerrodd WilliamsJerrodd Williams
RS Sr. Safety
#36 6-0, 205
Central, SC

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. Cordrea TankersleyCordrea Tankersley
Fr. Defensive Back
#25 6-1, 190
Beech Island, SC

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will work at corner,” Swinney said. “We started him there a little last week. I'm excited about him getting work. We'll get Breeland back after that (in the second half)."

Jenkins said that losing Peters has been a tough blow.

“I am sure it is frustrating for him. I have talked to him and he is just rolling with the punches,” Jenkins said. “Of course, sitting out and being away from something you love when you only get 12 guaranteed days, that is tough. That is what we work for. So missing one of those days is tough. He will definitely be ready when he comes back.”

Safety Robert SmithRobert Smith
Jr. Safety
#27 5-10, 210
St. George, SC

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called Saturday a challenge, but then said he thinks the players will answer the call.

“I really think that it’s going to be a good challenge, but I think that all of our players will rise up to the occasion and step up to the challenge to step into roles that they didn’t have earlier in the season. I think people are starting to see our depth now,” Smith said. “You can’t worry about that. Injuries happen. You just have to go out there and believe in the person that’s next to you.”

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