No. 1 Clemson dealing with rash of injuries on defense vs BC

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — No. 1 Clemson finally faces a challenge — only this one is internal.

The Tigers are dealing with a rash of injuries and could be without three starters on defense, including second-leading tackler in fifth-year senior James Skalski. He is expected to miss several games with a groin injury.

Also starting defensive tackles in Tyler Davis and Jordan Williams could be out when Clemson (6-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) looks for its 28th straight win over a league opponent against Boston College (4-2, 3-2) on Saturday.

“It’s that time of year when you get some guys banged up and you have to dig in a little bit,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We have got some guys that have to step up.”

Swinney saw that happen last week with Skalski, Davis and Williams sidelined due to injuries in a 47-21 victory over Syracuse. The Orange had just 58 plays and were held to 175 passing yards.

Those results need to continue while players are out, Swinney said. The coach did acknowledge the difficulty in losing Skalski, who typically sets the tone for the Tigers.

“Great football player, I hate that for him,” Swinney said. He anticipates Skalski playing again this season, but does not know how long it will take to recover.

The Tigers do expect to have starter Derion Kendrick back at cornerback after missing the Syracuse game.

Boston College coach Jeff Hafley, a former co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, thinks the Eagles will see a fast, hard-hitting Clemson defense — no matter who starts the game.

Hafley said Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables is one of the game’s best and cherishes the challenge of shutting teams down.

“He gets creative and has fun with them,” Hafley said of Venables. “And he lets those guys lay fast, because they can hit it.”

Some other things to watch when Boston College plays No. 1 Clemson:


Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas saw his most action last week against Syracuse since illnesses including the coronavirus led him to redshirt this season. Thomas was a projected starter and an NFL draft prospect when the year began. But his health left him out of shape. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound junior played 25 snaps against Syracuse with three tackles and a sack.


Boston College finally found a run game to add to its strong passing attack. The Eagles had been last in ACC rushing before gaining 264 yards on the ground in a 48-27 victory over Georgia Tech last week. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec led the way with 94 yards off runs of 24 and 28 yards. Jurkovec, a Notre Dame transfer, has thrown for 300 or more yards in four of his first five games — the most prolific start in school history.


The biggest issue on offense for Clemson might be quarterback Trevor Lawrence opening the door a crack about passing on the NFL for another college season. Lawrence figures to be No. 1 overall pick and has said he plans for this to be his final year with the Tigers. But, he said Tuesday, “Who knows?”


The Eagles have faced the top-ranked team in the country five times, with their only victory coming against Notre Dame in 1993. BC’s only other win against a top five opponent came against the fourth-ranked Irish in 2002. In all, BC is 31-114-1 against ranked competition, with their last win coming in 2014 against No. 9 Southern California.


Clemson linebacker James Skalski and defensive coordinator Brent Venables did a parody from “The Office” sitcom where Dwight Schrute puts a pumpkin on his head as a Halloween prank but then can’t get it off. Skalski plays the Schrute part while Venables is Jim Halpert, trying several ways to dislodge the gourd including hedge clippers and a baseball bat.

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