CLEMSON - Bring it on, double teams. Vic Beasley won't mind.
When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson
After a super start to his junior year - nine sacks in six games - Beasley only had one sack the following five games as opposing offenses focused on taking the defensive end out of the game plan. If the gentle giant was peeved, his teammates barely noticed.
"He doesn't really show stress because Vic doesn't stress over much," defensive linemate D.J. Reader said. "You could tell he was frustrated, but he figured it out, and like any great player, he got better."
Beasley had 23 tackles for loss last year (including 13 sacks), leading a defense that finished with 123 tackles for loss, the best in the nation.
Clemson opens next year at Georgia, one of five teams on the Tigers' 2014 schedule whom Beasley has recorded multiple sacks against in one game. He can expect plenty of extra attention from blocking backs and a second lineman.
"I take it in stride. I feel like our defensive line is just so good, the same guys from last year, they're getting better and I'm getting better," Beasley said. "So it's going to be really hard for them to really just focus on me, because if they focus on me, that's going to open up the gate for somebody else."
Somebody else like Shaq Lawson, who might get the call to start opposite Beasley at defensive end with Corey Crawford suspended for the opener.
"Vic's going to get attention, because Vic Beasley's good," Lawson said. "That'll open it up for other teammates, for Corey, me, Tavaris (Barnes) and all of us to get sacks."
Lawson and linebacker Stephone Anthony each had four sacks in 2013, while Crawford and Reader each had three. All four are back on Clemson's defense along with Beasley; in all, returning players recorded 34 of the Tigers' 38 sacks last year.
More than one reason
After freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson cracked his collarbone during a full-contact scrimmage and will miss three weeks, Clemson could take some heat for putting the passers in harm's way.
But the way head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris see it, it was about more than just cranking the heat on Watson, Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly. They wanted to challenge the offensive line, another position saddled with question marks.
"You've got to put these guys in a live situation to where the O-line knows they're taking pride in saying, hey, I'm not going to let this guy get hit," Morris said.
Plus, there's the benefit of training the defense to deal with shifty quarterbacks. Stoudt, Kelly and Watson can all scramble and make plays.
"That's how it's going to be in the game," senior safety Robert Smith said. "So it's great to get that work right now, because you're going to have mobile quarterbacks like (South Carolina's) Connor Shaw and (Ohio State's) Braxton Miller."
If anything, the Tigers should be thankful Watson wasn't hurt worse - Kelly was lost for the summer and early fall when he tore his ACL in the 2013 spring game on a non-contact play - as Swinney and Morris continue to sort out the QB battle.
"We don't get preseason games. It's no different than the NFL - their quarterbacks are live when they have four preseason games," Swinney said. "So the first time they're going to be live is when they go to Athens? I don't know when we can have a fair evaluation."
Clemson AD speaks out
The never-ending topic of whether college athletes should be paid roars on with the recent ruling that said Northwestern football players can form a union, which has been rebuked widely by school and conference officials.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, at the end of his open letter to Clemson fans released Monday, addressed the topic in conjunction with new university president James P. Clements.
"We are united in our views of how the amateur model should look and college sports should fit into the framework of the university," Radakovich wrote. "The NCAA is working on governance changes to address some of these very topics, grouping like-minded schools into categories which more clearly apply to the real world situations they face.
"While the Northwestern case does not immediately impact our state or school, we have and will continue to monitor this potentially transformative case and all others which could have an impact."
Players expected to sit out Saturday's spring game due to injury include offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain (toe), tight end Sam Cooper (shoulder) and safety Taylor Watson (knee.).
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