Last week Clemson faced a less than formidable opponent in Ball State, and the Tigers handled the Cardinals easily with a final score of 52-27. The Furman Paladins visit Death Valley this weekend as the No. 11 Tigers have one more “cupcake” game before the big showdown looming on the horizon in Tallahassee.
The big story this week for Clemson is the return of playmaking wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins played sensationally last season as a freshman, and everyone is eager to see what he has in store for his sophomore season. The Paladins return eight starters to a defense that is fairly athletic, but they still should not be able to slow the offensive attack of the Tigers.
The Paladins, under the direction of head coach Bruce Fowler, come into the game with a 0-2 record, losing to Samford by three points in their opener and then losing 47-45 in triple overtime to Coastal Carolina this past weekend.
Furman is not expected to put up much of a fight, but they have some players who could give Clemson some trouble. In his weekly press conference, Coach Dabo Swinney was quick to point out that the Paladins put up almost 500 yards of total offense against Florida last year, and that they are very capable of running the ball.
True freshman quarterback and lifelong Clemson fan Reese Hannon, from nearby Greer High School, will start for the first time in his career. Hannon came off the bench last Saturday to throw for 255 yards and four touchdowns, all in the second half and overtime. Clemson has been a little shaky in pass defense at times early this season, so Hannon created some plays through the air this weekend.
Senior running back Jerodis Williams is another solid player for the Paladins, and with the success that Auburn and Ball State had on the ground against the Tigers, Williams should be able to find some running lanes throughout the game.
One of the Paladins’ strengths is their defensive line, but it is a bit undersized compared to Clemson’s offensive line. Swinney also said that he is optimistic that Gifford Timothy will be able to play this weekend, while David Beasley will be a game-time decision. Even without those two, the Tigers should find no problems running the ball or protecting passes.
The Tigers’ passing game has been successful so far this season. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has passed with deadly accuracy, and Nuk Hopkins has been catching everything in sight, including four touchdown passes. With the addition of Watkins, there’s no telling what Clemson may do through the air this weekend.
A convincing win over Furman would be nice for the Tigers, especially if they can get a big lead early and get their reserves more game experience. Be sure to come out to Death Valley and support the Tigers against the Paladins this weekend. The game kicks off at 3 p.m. and airs on Fox Sports and ESPN3.com.