MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. — Three Clemson players have been sent home two days before the Orange Bowl for a failed drug test, according to a source.
Freshman wide receiver Deon Cain, senior kicker Ammon Lakip and junior tight end Jay Jay McCullough will not play in the top-ranked Tigers’ College Football Playoff national semifinal game Thursday vs. No. 4 Oklahoma.
The players’ status for the national championship, should Clemson prevail Thursday, was not known, the source said.
A Clemson spokesman declined comment Tuesday night. Head coach Dabo Swinney is set to address the media at a press conference Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
The news was first reported by ESPN Upstate.
The most significant loss is Cain, Clemson’s second-leading receiver and a freshman who broke Sammy Watkins’ rookie record for most consecutive games with a touchdown, with five.
Cain has 34 catches for 582 yards and five touchdowns this season, and incidentally, the Tampa native was also suspended for Clemson’s previous game at Sun Life Stadium (a 58-0 win at Miami Oct. 24) for attitude reasons.
Cain (6-2, 200) is a backup on the depth chart to senior Charone Peake (6-3, 200), whose numbers are similar to Cain’s. Peake, who has stayed healthy in the final year of a college career plagued by knee injuries, has 40 receptions for 563 yards and five touchdowns.
Lakip was set to handle kickoffs and extra points for the Tigers during the playoff. The team’s starting placekicker in 2014, Lakip was suspended the first three games of this season for a June arrest for cocaine possession. Field-goal kicker Greg Huegel is now expected to boot extra points, of which he is 49-for-54 this year.
McCullough is a reserve tight end with no receptions this year. He had 11 catches for 113 yards in his first two seasons.
Mackensie Alexander is a walking quote machine, so he significantly limits his appearances with the media in order not to create controversy on a weekly basis.
Clemson’s sophomore cornerback had nowhere to hide at Tuesday’s Orange Bowl media day, and within five minutes of being surrounded by reporters, Alexander went after his likely assignment Thursday, Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard, by not saying much about him.
“He’s No. 3 and he’s 5-10. And he plays for OU. There’s nothing for me to say about the guy. He plays for OU,” Alexander said.
Shepard does wear No. 3, does stand 5-10, and does play for Oklahoma. He also has 79 receptions, 1,201 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns — the catches and yards are higher than any individual Clemson opponent so far in 2015, and the TDs are topped only by the 13 scored by Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, whom Alexander held to 37 yards on two grabs.
So how good is Shepard?
“I don’t think that matters right now,” Alexander said. “We’ve got to wait until the game to do what we do. This is a game of performance. I’m not going to sit here and sell no dreams and tell everybody what they want to hear. Players make plays and coaches coach. That’s all.”
Shepard and Alexander woofed at one another early and often in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
“I don’t want to say (he’s) anything different than what I’ve been against,” Shepard said of Alexander on Tuesday. “You talk about special or different, I’d have to say something that nobody’s ever shown me. I’ve played against big and physical categories, and you can put him in that category, but that’s as far as that goes.”
Shepard had one catch for 13 yards vs. the Tigers last year, while playing through what he said was diagnosed as a torn adductor in his groin.
“I know he’s looking forward to that matchup,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “I bet he’s been looking forward to that matchup since the game ended last year.”
Clemson punter Andy Teasdall talked to the media for the first time since the ACC Championship Game. He said he stopped going on social media after his failed fake punt attempt against North Carolina and the Dabo Swinney tirade that followed.
“I just made a mistake,” Teasdall said. “I’ve moved on from it. I know everything happens for a reason. God never says ‘oops.’”
Teasdall said he just “saw something” in the North Carolina coverage and that he would have “reacted the same way” as a head coach.
“The media blew it out of proportion,” Teasdall said. “I love Coach Swinney. He loves me.”
First words for Mixon
The Media Day anticipation for Teasdall was nothing compared to the two dozen reporters surrounding a table reserved for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. The redshirt freshman spoke Tuesday for his first time as a Sooner; he was suspended for all of the 2014 season after an incident in which he allegedly punched a woman in a Norman restaurant and had not been made available to reporters this season.
“First off, all I’d like to say is that I’m here to answer all football questions,” Mixon said. “Nothing else. No situation but football.”
An Oklahoma publicist accompanied Mixon and blocked all non-football questions.
Mixon, who rushed for 749 yards and seven touchdowns this season, called himself “a great person.”
No decisions yet
Multiple sources indicated Alexander and safety Jayron Kearse, who himself has limited his media appearances in recent weeks, are expected to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft and forego their fourth years at Clemson.
Neither player is ready to personally make that decision public yet.
“I’m not even focused on that. Me and Coach (Dabo) Swinney talked. We’re just going to focus on the game,” Alexander said. “I haven’t made a decision yet. My family is with me on everything. I’m at Clemson, I’m enjoying it, I’m here with my teammates. That’s all that matters right now.”
Alexander and Kearse, along with previously declared defensive end Shaq Lawson, are anticipated first- or second-round picks in next spring’s draft. Safety T.J. Green, defensive end Kevin Dodd, tight end Jordan Leggett and running back Wayne Gallman also are deferring on announcing their decisions.
— Gene Sapakoff contributed to this report.