While we are still a long ways away from the start of the 2014 season, the Clemson Tigers find themselves at a decided disadvantage for their season opener against the Georgia Bulldogs on August 30. Due to a violation of team rules, four players will be suspended for the game, including three projected starters. That will put a lot of pressure on the Tigers to win short-handed in what was already considered a huge non-conference showdown.
The three projected starters, all seniors, are defensive end Corey Crawford, cornerback Garry Peters and guard David Beasley. The fourth player is backup offensive tackle Shaq Anthony. Crawford is the biggest loss of the group as part of the best defensive end tandem in the ACC for next season with senior Vic Beasley. He has been a full-time starter the last two seasons and was a huge part of the run defense for this team heading into next season after recording 10.5 tackles for loss in 2013.
Beasley is a third-year starter on the offensive line and a key piece of the Clemson running game. He is a physical presence on the interior of the line that can move defenders and create lanes for the backs between the tackles. Peters has been penciled in to one of the two vacant corner positions after the Tigers lost both starting cornerbacks from the 2013 team. He was hampered by injuries in 2013 but saw some work as a part-time starter in 2012.
The matchup against the Bulldogs was already a huge game for Clemson as they try and get their 2014 season off to a fast start in the fall. A win over a strong SEC opponent will go a long way in building a case for the Tigers as they try and find a way into the College Football Playoff next postseason to play for a national title.
It figured to be a tough matchup to begin with but now seems even more daunting without the help of these three projected starters. Can Clemson overcome being short-handed and get their 2014 campaign off on the right foot?