CLEMSON — Good news for Clemson’s defense: another potential option in passing formations appears to be healthy enough to throw at Georgia’s explosive attack.
Freshman Jayron Kearse has been touted as a possible third corner earlier in fall camp, but a shoulder injury forced him off the team’s first game week depth chart. He was listed officially as “questionable” Monday, but head coach Dabo Swinney upgraded Kearse’s status during Wednesday morning’s ACC teleconference.
“Jayron is set to go, he’s back in full practice,” Swinney said. “He’s still not quite 100 percent, but he’s not far off. He’ll be ready and available.”
Fellow freshman Korrin Wiggins is tabbed as the starting “nickel” back, when Clemson opts for five defensive backs on the field for third-and-long plays. Strongside linebacker Quandon Christian could also slide over to nickel, but the lanky Kearse (6-foot-4, 205 pounds) gives defensive coordinator Brent Venables yet another button to push if he chooses.
“He has missed a lot of practice, so he’s not as far along as we’d like him to be. He missed some significant days,” Swinney said. “Definitely a guy that’s practicing this week in our depth rotation, and will be available.”
Leggett likely to watch
The arrow is pointing the opposite direction for true freshman Jordan Leggett.
Even though Swinney indicated at his Tuesday press conference Leggett was “a strong possibility” to be available just two weeks after spraining an MCL, Swinney reeled in the chances Leggett will play.
The 6-6 pass-catcher “looked pretty good last night” in Tuesday’s practice, but because Clemson has developed a gameplan without Leggett in it, chances are Darrell Smith and former Porter-Gaud star Stanton Seckinger will man the position against Georgia.
“We feel good about the guys that we’re going to go try to compete in this game with, probably be a situation where most likely he’s going to be available to play but we may not play him unless he’s needed,” Swinney said. “You never know how things are going to go early, or if somebody gets banged up. We may try to hold him if possible and cut him loose next week.”
They wanna go fast
Knowing what his offense is capable of, Swinney can attach specific numbers to the Tigers’ goals.
Clemson averaged 81.7 snaps per game in 2012 — a year it set 101 school records — and offensive coordinator Chad Morris is on record as shooting for eight to 10 more snaps per game.
That’s a bit ambitious, but Swinney’s not pumping the brakes.
“We shoot for 82 and above. That’s kind of our benchmark,” Swinney said. “Outside of that, it comes down to the type of success that you’re having. We definitely want to play fast. That’s who we are, that’s what we do, it’s what our players like. We feel like it allows us to put a lot of pressure on the defense with the skill we put on the field when we play with a fast tempo.”
The other objective: the rate of putting points on the board.
“Bottom line is, we’re probably going to score every 13 to 15 plays,” Swinney said. “The more opportunities and at-bats we get, the more opportunities we have to score.”
In 2012, the Tigers’ offense scored 66 touchdowns (40 pass, 26 rush) and kicked 19 field goals, snapping the ball 1,062 snaps. That’s a rate of scoring offensively once every 12.5 snaps.
Quoting the Great Bambino
Because Swinney’s running out of ways to tell people Clemson’s not resting on last year’s laurels, he resorted to a baseball analogy when asked how Heisman candidate Tajh Boyd is handling the hype.
“Listen, Tajh has been a good player for a long time. He has a good balance in his life. Babe Ruth … said ‘yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.’ It’s exciting that people recognize his past performance and his abilities and his potential, but he has a very good understanding that it’s based on what you do now, your actual performance now.
“You’ve got to pay the price, you’ve got to prepare your tail off, and you’ve got to perform on gameday,” Swinney continued. “He’s been in the limelight for a long time, so I don’t think the light is too bright for him.”