Willard gets first start, Andrews steps into bigger role

by - Senior Writer -
Linebacker Brandon Maye (No. 20) hopes to be back for the PC game next week

CLEMSON – Sophomore linebacker Tig Willard will get his first career start on Saturday in place of junior linebacker Brandon Maye, who is undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery today in an effort to clear up loose particles in the knee he originally injured in preparation for the Music City Bowl last season.

Maye injured the knee in practice leading up to the bowl game against Kentucky, and played only three snaps at his middle linebacker spot before yielding to Corico Hawkins, who took over at middle linebacker when Maye was moved to weakside linebacker in the spring.

Maye has started 25 of the last 26 Clemson games and has 190 career tackles, including 103 last year. He has 12 career tackles for loss and five sacks to go with 24 quarterback pressures. In 2009, he set a Clemson single season record with five caused fumbles.

However, the knee swelled up on him following Monday’s practice.

“Heck, he practiced Monday and we were in vests on Monday, but the knee swelled up on him,” Swinney said during Wednesday’s ACC Media Teleconference. “It was one of those situations where he probably could have gone ahead and played, but it would have been something we would have constantly been worried about.

“There is a loose body in there, and he could have played three or four games, and gotten hit the wrong way and it could have lodged somewhere and created problems and we would have to do it later in the season. So we are going to do the surgery right now with the hopes that we can get him back to get some time in next week against Presbyterian. I think it is a pretty minor procedure and hopefully it will go the way we want.”

Willard was listed as co-starter on the depth chart with Maye heading into the North Texas game, but played just 32 snaps on the defensive side of the ball in 2009. He redshirted in 2008. His high for snaps in a game was 12, against Wake Forest. He also recorded three tackles for loss. He played in six games, but didn’t play any snaps in the Music City Bowl.

Swinney said that the Tigers will move junior Daniel Andrews, who also backs up starter Quandon Christian at strongside linebacker, in reserve of Willard. Andrews played in all 14 games last season, playing 45 defensive snaps.

“We’ll move Tig Willard to starter, but he was listed as co-starter so he was going to play a lot of snaps anyway,” Swinney said. “We will also move Daniel Andrews over there to provide some depth in that position. We are probably going to have to play a lot of nickel this week anyway.”

North Texas spreads the field with three and four wide receivers, which would prompt the Tigers to play a lot of nickel defense, which would bring Xavier Brewer on the field as a fifth defensive back while Christian comes off. If the Tigers are forced to play nickel, Christian’s snaps would be limited, allowing Andrews to back up Willard. Freshman Justin Parker could also see time behind Christian.

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