- Associated Press - Friday, September 4, 2015

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) - Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables did not need a refresher on Wofford’s option offense to get worried for Saturday’s opener.

All the holes on the 12th-ranked Tigers’ defense took care of that long ago.

Clemson was the country’s No. 1 defense last year, allowing 260 yards a game to finish 10-3. But eight starters off that group are gone, including NFL first-round selections in defensive end Vic Beasley and linebacker Stephone Anthony - and Venables is waiting to see if his new starters can keep things going Clemson’s way.

Wofford could make that difficult.

The Terriers of the Football Championship Subdivision have been among that division’s best running teams for nearly two decades (they’re ranked among country’s top seven rushing teams each of past 17 years). The last time Wofford came to Death Valley in 2011, it led 24-21 in the third quarter before Clemson rallied to win 35-27.

Venables didn’t need to go back that far, simply watching Wofford give Georgia Tech fits last season. The Terriers were down just 24-19 in the final quarter of Georgia Tech’s 38-19 win.

“And was the same Georgia Tech team that kicked our butt,” Venables said of Clemson’s 28-6 loss to the Yellow Jackets two months later. “That’s what I saw.”

Clemson defense continued to take hits during fall football camp. Korrin Wiggins, one of three returning starters at nickel back, was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Defensive tackle D.J. Reader, an expected starter on the front four, stepped away from the team last month to handle what Clemson coach Dabo Swinney called “personal issues” with no timetable for a return.

Travis Blanks, returning from knee injuries the past two seasons, will take Wiggins’ spot at linebacker while sophomore Scott Pagano or freshman Christian Wilkins are in line to fill Reader’s role.

“It’s exciting for the challenge,” Venables said. “And we will have to play really well to give ourselves a chance to win.”


Some things to watch when No. 12 Clemson plays Wofford:

CLEMSON’S FCS SUCCESS: The Tigers are 29-0 all-time against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision since 1982. The only team to finish within single-digits of Clemson in that stretch? Wofford in 2011 when it fell at Death Valley 35-27. The Terriers 27 points are the most ever put up by an FCS school against Clemson.

WOFFORD LOOKING TO REBOUND: Wofford missed the FCS playoffs for the second straight season last fall, something that had not happened since the 2005 and 2006 seasons. The Terriers have won three Southern Conference titles and gone to the national playoffs five times in the past eight seasons and are anxious for a return to the top. “When you feel the pulse of this team, I think the kids are excited about the season,” said Mike Ayers, who’s starts his 28th season with the Terriers. “They’re a close-knit group.”

CLEMSON KICKER: The Tigers enter the season without last year’s place kicker Ammon Lakip, suspended for the first three games because of a drug arrest last June. Lakip was 21 of 28 on field goals last fall, improving his accuracy as the season went on. Walk-on Greg Huegel won the job in fall camp, out-performing scholarship kicker Alex Spence. Huegel won’t truly be tested until the third game when Clemson starts Atlantic Coast Conference play at Louisville.

CROWDED BACKFIELD: Clemson either has a lot of depth at running back or is still searching for a featured runner. Wayne Gallman, last year’s leading rusher with 769 yards, is listed as the starter. Behind him, the Tigers depth chart lists four more runners expected to see playing time in C.J. Davidson, Tyshon Dye, C.J. Fuller and Zac Brooks.

NEW FACES: The Clemson offensive three-deep lineup includes 13 freshman, including offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt who will make his first college start Saturday against Wofford. Other freshmen who’ll play are receivers Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and Trevion Thompson, tight end Garrett Williams and offensive linemen Justin Falcinelli and Jake Fruhmorgen.

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