The Clemson Tigers might not have a game this Saturday, but they’ll have the college football stage to themselves once they face off against the NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday.
The Wolfpack are still without starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell, and the Tigers took a big hit in their receiving corps when they lost starting receiver Charone Peake for the season with a torn ACL. The Tigers have a deep receiving corps, but Peake’s ability as a receiver will be missed, especially on intermediate routes.
And on a Thursday night road game in Carter-Finley Stadium, it will be important for Clemson to set the tone and come out playing well early. Here are some Tigers to keep an eye on against NC State on Thursday:
Germone Hopper — The redshirt freshman gained some confidence from the coaches with his six-catch, 66-yard, two-touchdown performance against South Carolina State in Week 2. The speedy redshirt freshman saw his first game action that week and flashed the speed that allowed him to rush for over 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns out of Charlotte Berry Academy.
Hopper was rated by ESPN as the No. 13 receiver in the 2012 class. Now, he will be back in his home state with a chance to assert himself in Clemson’s receiving corps behind the trio of Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, and Adam Humphries. Hopper will likely see work out of the slot, and he will likely get the first crack as the No. 4 receiver.
Martavis Bryant – The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver has been amongst the latest subject of skepticism after failing to haul in a reception against Georgia in Week 1. He made up some of it by hauling in four receptions for 87 yards and showing what Clemson fans have seen out of the receiver. Bryant will now be looked upon more as the clear No. 2 option now that Peake is lost for the season.
Bryant’s biggest asset lies in his speed downfield as a deep threat, but as teams look to take that away from the Tigers’ offense (or at least contain it), Bryant will have to be patient and content with catching shorter underneath routes and taking what the defense gives him. Look for a brighter spotlight on Bryant from here on out.
Vic Beasley – The defensive end is proving that his team-leading eight sacks last season as a situational pass rusher was no coincidence, notching two sacks against Georgia and causing trouble for the Bulldogs on the edge. Beasley will be needed to get pressure on Wolfpack quarterback Pete Thomas to stop him from potentially getting into a rhythm.
You can bet that Beasley will be chipped and be guarded with the tight end or the running back often. NC State will also attempt to establish the run early and could be sure to test the smaller Beasley by running at him.
Clemson Secondary — The secondary is looking to come off its strong performance against SC State, as both Martin Jenkins and Darius Robinson returned interceptions for touchdowns, and not allowing Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to throw a single touchdown. But tackling remains inconsistent with this group, as well as their angles of pursuit, especially in the open field.
The fact is that, despite the competition at corner, no one has really distinguished themselves above anyone, though Jenkins continues to make a case. His health moving forward will be important for the Tigers’ secondary. Bashuad Breeland and Garry Peters remain in the conversation at corner, and this game could go towards finally gaining some continuity at the corner position.