CLEMSON – First and foremost, some injury news. And yes, this is a little later than 7 p.m. Oops!
1) As feared Saturday night, starting free safety Travis Blanks is out for the year with a torn ACL sustained against The Citadel.
“The good news is, the timing of it. It’s not like it’s happening in spring practice,” head coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday night. “We’ll get him back and be ready to go full go by the time the season starts next year for sure. But disappointed for him, because he’s just a great competitor and loves to play. So we’ll miss him.”
Blanks’ sophomore year ends with 36 tackles.
2) Moreover, backup running back Zac Brooks continues to struggle with a bad shoulder, re-injured Saturday. Swinney wasn’t totally certain whether Brooks, who has 246 yards on 48 carries, would return this year.
“I’m hopeful that we do,” Swinney said. “Because we’ve got plenty of time before we get to the bowl game, so I’m hopeful we’ll get him back for the bowl. But we’ll just have to wait and see how he is this week.”
3) Yes, Dabo, Clemson and South Carolina have never faced off in a game like this.
“Is it the first time? Two top 10s?” Swinney said. “Oh, we were 12 and 13 (last year).”
So, what’s it mean?
“It’s a credit to both schools, for the type of teams that we’ve been able to produce here and what they’ve been able to do there,” Swinney said. “To have two teams from the state of South Carolina nationally ranked, that makes this rivalry that much better. Alabama and Auburn got two top-10 teams playing in their rivalry game, we got two top-10 teams playing in our rivalry game, and I think it makes for an exciting game.”
4) No, there aren’t children throwing grapes at Swinney in the grocery store or waiters spitting in his food. He does know the 0-4 mark against the Gamecocks bothers the fan base.
“They all stick with you. This game, this is why they call it bragging rights, because you have to live with this one,” Swinney said. “When you’re a coach, all the losses you live with. The big state rival, that one’s more so, because everybody in your state lives with it. Everybody wants those bragging rights. They’ve done a great job. They’ve been the better team. They’ve outplayed us, outcoached us. We’ve got to play to our full potential, and that’s what we have not done. We’ve got to get that done.”
5) Jadeveon Clowney has two sacks this year. Two.
To borrow the catchphrase, Dabo don’t care.
“I don’t care what his numbers say from this year, he’s a load to handle,” Swinney said. “He is as advertised. He’s very, very talented. He can be incredibly disruptive. You have to have a plan for him. All their front plays really good. They’ve found a bunch of ways to win games. They’ve grown a bunch of those guys up on defense. But Clowney’s as good as anybody in the country. There’s no doubt about that. There’s also no doubt we’ll get the best he’s got.”
6) Chances are Isaiah Battle will get plenty of looks at Clowney, or at least Kelcy Quarles. The redshirt freshman is now entrenched at right tackle, starting the past two games for Clemson.
“I think he’s done a nice job, these past two weeks. He’s having some fun,” Swinney said. “He’s brought a pretty hard edge in there, and he’s been fairly consistent. We’ve got a big challenge this week, that’s for sure. This is definitely his biggest challenge. We’ll see how he does this week. Should be a good matchup.”
7) Hey, just kidding. Josh Watson announced on Facebook a change of heart: the defensive tackle who’s struggled to find playing time will return for his senior season.
“Yeah, he’s decided to stay. I’m glad he did. Happy about that,” Swinney said. “I think that definitely makes more sense. Maybe it was senior week, I don’t know, but he just told me he changed his mind, wants to stay. We want to have him. Glad he’s staying.”