Officially, as of March 5, there are 176 days until the 2014 college football season begins. However, players are already being suspended for season openers, meaning it can't be that far off.
According to The Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner (h/t College Football Talk's Kevin McGuire) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced during a Tuesday press conference that four players—offensive guard David Beasley, offensive tackle Shaq Anthony, defensive back Garry Peters and defensive end Corey Crawford—would miss the Tigers' opener at Georgia. The reason? The always-vague violation of team rules.
Beasley and Crawford are by far the biggest losses, if for no other reason than they started last season (Crawford started 12 games; Beasley started seven). Anthony and Peters were in positions to compete for starting time.
How bad does Crawford's suspension hurt the Tigers' chances? It's a tough loss considering what he brings to the defense. Considering who returns for Clemson, though, it's not as bad as it could be.
As a defensive end, Crawford has the greatest impact statistically of the four suspended players. He finished sixth on the team in total tackles (44), third in tackles for loss (10.5) and fifth in sacks (2.5) last season. Along with defensive lineman Vic Beasley, Crawford is part of a senior-laden defensive line that projects to be one of the ACC's best.
Crawford serves as a great complement to Beasley, who usually garners most of the attention. Crawford is more than just a good tackler, though. Georgia, of all teams, should know this.
It was Crawford who dropped back into coverage on a zone blitz against the Bulldogs last season (a 38-35 win) and picked off quarterback Aaron Murray.
Crawford gives the Tigers defense some versatility. That will be missed, for sure.
With the Bulldogs breaking in a new quarterback, Hutson Mason, and a new-look offensive line that replaces three starters, Crawford could have been a big factor.
Defense is what may decide the Week 1 game against the Bulldogs. Both teams return far more starters on that side of the ball and have replaced veteran quarterbacks.
The good news for the Tigers is that they have plenty of other playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. In all, Clemson returns eight starters there.
Thus, Crawford's suspension isn't a worst-case scenario. With so much attention on Beasley, though, he could have had a monster game.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.