Clemson vs. Auburn: Key Players to Watch for Both Teams

Mike Moraitis@@michaelmoraitisAnalyst ISeptember 1, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers against Rodney McLeod #4 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Auburn and Clemson are set to square off for the third time in as many years with each team having won one of the two previous matchups.

Auburn may not be the same team they were back in 2010, but that doesn't mean Clemson can take them lightly by any stretch. This will be a hard fought contest between two college powerhouses.

Let's take a look at some of the key players on both sides of this game.




DeAndre Hopkins, Wide Receiver

Sammy Watkins is Clemson's top receiver and a favorite target of quarterback Tajh Boyd. Watkins' suspension will keep him from playing in the contest against Auburn and while that would normally hurt Clemson, they have another top receiver to lean on.

Hopkins can be a go-to guy, but he's only a second option on this squad when Watkins is on the field. Hopkins caught 72 balls for 978 yards last season and could improve on those numbers with more looks while Watkins is out.

If Boyd can find his new No. 1 receiver on a regular basis, Clemson's offense shouldn't miss a beat through the air. Big hands and great speed give Hopkins the ability to break away from defenders and those qualities should make him a very open target for Boyd.


Malliciah Goodman, Defensive End

Goodman's role on this team became much more important upon the departure of Andre Branch for the NFL. The Clemson defensive end proved his worth last season with 59 tackles and two sacks.

Goodman has decent speed for an end, but his size and ability to handle one-on-one matchups with opposing offensive linemen are what set him apart.

Clemson needs to put some pressure on the quarterback and make it tough for Auburn's running game to get out of the backfield. Not to mention, new Auburn starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier could succumb to that pressure and force throws, causing some much-needed turnovers for Clemson.

If Goodman can get around the end, that will go a long way towards halting Frazier on the ground, as the Auburn quarterback was one of the team's top rushers last season.




Corey Lemonier, Defensive End

Having lost one of his top receivers, the Clemson quarterback will have less options to go to in this game. That means Boyd will need a bit more time to throw the ball while looking for new options to throw to—that's where Lemonier comes in.

Last season, Lemonier notched 9.5 sacks and proved to be a force on the defensive line.

Given Boyd's athleticism, Lemonier's speed can help him contain the Clemson quarterback and turn him into a one-dimensional player. On top of that, Clemson's dangerous rushing attack won't be able to get going if they can't break runs to the outside thanks to Lemonier's ferocious defense.

Lemonier has the ability to make it uncomfortable for Boyd real fast, and that could create some turnovers for Auburn's defense.


Onterio McCalebb, Running Back

With a new quarterback at the helm in Frazier, it will be important for Auburn's rushing attack to get moving real fast in order to take pressure off their signal caller.

McCalebb not only has the ability to gain a ton of yards on the ground, but he also has a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield, making him a double threat.

Clemson's defense won't allow Frazier to settle into his new job easily, but having a reliable back  to hand the ball to in McCalebb will certainly help that along.


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