CLEMSON — Due to the nature of Clemson’s quick turnaround this week, Head Coach Dabo Swinney and Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables were the only Tigers to meet with members of the local media Tuesday in the WestZone. The two men spent the better part of an hour addressing questions Thursday’s ACC opener at Louisville and the challenge of such a short week of preparation, among a plethora of topics.
Hostile Environment Expected. Clemson takes to the road for the first time Thursday, and with that comes the expectation of playing in front of a capacity crowd in Louisville, Ky., at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Swinney is anxious to see how his team handles what is sure to be a raucous venue.
“I want to see how we handle adversity, because there will be some,” he said. “How can we compete for four quarters in a hostile environment?
“We both want to win the game and win the ACC Atlantic Division, but how do we do that? We tell our players to have great focus in our meetings, to prepare with purpose at practice, and use good technique. Those are the types of things we can control.”
Last season, it went down to the wire against the Cardinals, with DeShawn Williams deflecting a Louisville pass on fourth-and-goal to preserve a 23-17 triumph.
Change at Center. Swinney began Tuesday’s press conference with an injury update. Starting center Ryan Norton sprained an MCL in his knee, and will not play against the Cardinals. That moves junior Jay Guillermo into the starting lineup.
Guillermo is no stranger to the field, having logged 40 more snaps (90 total) than Norton this season.
“Jay has done well,” Swinney said. “He’s been engaged at practice. He was going to play a ton, regardless of Ryan’s injury. We’re confident in Jay and in Falcy (second-team center Justin Falcinelli). It’s a good thing we got Falcy some experience these first two games.”
Revolving Door at Louisville’s Quarterback Spot. Bobby Petrino’s team has used three different quarterbacks — and two different starters — through its first two games, slim defeats to both Auburn and Houston.
Lamar Jackson has appeared in both games for the Cardinals, completing 26-47 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown. But it’s the running game that makes Jackson such a dual threat at the position. In Louisville’s opener against Auburn, he rushed for a team-high 106 yards.
Venables said Tuesday that facing a mobile quarterback means more than simply preparing for someone who is a fast runner.
“With mobile quarterbacks, a lot of it depends on how well they can throw the ball,” he said. “If you have a two-dimensional guy at the position, you have to be careful with your rush lanes, things of that nature.”
Jackson is listed with the first team on the latest depth chart, but Reggie Bonnafon was the Cards’ starting signal-caller in the opener. Bonnafon played at Clemson last season, going 5-13 for 62 yards, falling victim to five sacks.
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