CLEMSON -- The Tigers will be without weakside linebacker Brandon Maye in the season opener against North Texas on Saturday.
Maye will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery today, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced after practice Tuesday.
Swinney said he was optimistic Maye could play against Presbyterian on Sept. 11, but it seems more likely Maye would be held out as a precaution at least until the Auburn game on Sept. 18.
Maye practiced Monday but had swelling in his knee, which prompted an MRI.
"Brandon just finished the best camp of his career," Swinney said. "He does not have a serious injury. He had practiced on Monday the entire practice, but he had more swelling. We talked about this with Brandon and the doctors just before practice (Tuesday) and that is when the decision was made."
Jonathan Willard will start in Maye's place against North Texas.
C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford and Michael Palmer were the face of the Clemson offense last year. With that trio departed, Swinney remains confident the offense will remain productive, albeit with a different look.
"Those three or four guys were the heart and soul of the team," Swinney said. "I think this year we'll be a much more balanced team as far as production. ... It's not going to take much for our skill guys to have career games."
Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington are penciled in as the main running backs. Dwayne Allen is the clear No. 1 option at tight end. Wide receiver remains the most competitive position entering the season.
"It's never been any different (at wide receiver) since I've been here," Swinney said. "The first year we had huge numbers at wide receiver. Derrick Hamilton and Kevin Youngblood were leaving and I remember everyone saying Airese Currie couldn't be the guy, he's a supposed bust or whatever -- all he did was lead the league in catches.
"Then he left and surely we didn't have anyone left. Well, a guy named (Curtis) Baham . . . and a guy named (Chansi) Stuckey (stepped up). (Stuckey) was back-to-back all-conference. Then when Stuckey left, well, we surely don't have anyone. In the meantime, we'd gone out and got these guys named (Aaron) Kelly and (Tyler) Grisham -- both turned out to be pretty good players."
One step at a time
ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tabbed Auburn and Miami (Fla.) as darkhorse national title contenders Tuesday. They also happen to be Clemson's third and fourth opponents of the season.
Swinney was asked Tuesday if Clemson's opening opponents, North Texas and Presbyterian, will prepare the Tigers for a difficult stretch beginning with Auburn.
"We don't overlook anyone," Swinney said. "We only have 12 Saturdays. (Louisiana)-Monroe beat Alabama. Appalachian State beat Michigan."