On the Beat: Clemson captain promises VP Joe Biden a return trip to White House

Clemson senior offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain, center, introduces vice president Joe Biden, right, at an "It's On Us" campaign speech in Clemson, S.C., Nov. 10, 2015. Clemson University president Jim Clements, left, looks on. (Clemson sports information)

On the eve of No. 1 Clemson’s game with Florida State, senior offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain received a surprise call from Jeff Davis, the school’s director of player personnel.

“Hey man, Tuesday, you’re going to be introducing the VP,” Davis told Mac Lain.

“What do you mean?” Mac Lain inquired.

“You heard me right,” Davis answered. “Start writing that introductory speech.”

So when Joe Biden visited a packed Jervey Gymnasium on Tuesday as part of the “It’s On Us” campaign to raise awareness for and help eliminate domestic violence and campus sexual assault, there was a burly 6-5, 315-pound football player in a suit and his trademark beard to offer remarks before Biden’s turn at the podium.

“You love to stay as focused as you can, but every now and then, you want to smell the roses as you’re running by them,” Mac Lain said, who received a signed helmet from Biden and exchanged a promise to Biden.

“Today, talking to the vice president, I told him, ‘We’re going to see you again,’” Mac Lain said, in reference to the college football champion’s reward of a White House visit. “He laughed and said, ‘Can’t wait to see you.’”

One of the more eloquent speakers on the team, Mac Lain heard playful suggestions from assembled media about his own future presidential campaign.

It was mentioned there has not been a bearded president in quite some time — not in over 100 years, in fact, since William Howard Taft left office in 1913.

In the not-too-distant future, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is likely to receive a few phone calls seeking his interest in head coaching opportunities.

For now, head coach Dabo Swinney’s focus is elsewhere.

“I absolutely think Brent is the best d-coordinator in the country,” Swinney said. “We’re not going to talk about jobs and all that — we’re trying to win games. But anybody on my staff that has aspirations of being a head coach and getting an opportunity, I would certainly love that for them. But that’s something everybody has to evaluate by themselves on what they want to do.”

Venables has prepared multiple games this season without knowing which quarterback will start for the opponent.

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer will keep Venables in the dark long as possible, declining to announce whether freshman Eric Dungey (concussion) will be available Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Dungey has been the best of a muddled (and injury-riddled) situation at quarterback for the Orange: he has completed 105-of-176 passes (59.7 percent) for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions, plus has a team-high five rushing scores.

Sophomores Zack Mahoney, a juco transfer, and Austin Wilson are other options — reports out of Syracuse are Mahoney is likely going to start. Pitt 2013 starter Terrel Hunt’s season ended with an Achilles injury in the opener, and 2014 starter A.J. Long’s career ended due to concussions.

Mahoney completed 16-of-38 passes for 154 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in Syracuse’s 34-24 home loss to LSU on Sept. 26.

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