We’re now closing in on 10 days to Georgia’s season opener against Clemson. The Aug. 31 matchup will pit the nation’s No. 5 team in the Bulldogs against the No. 8 team. It is slated for an ABC-TV primetime broadcast (8 p.m.) and ESPN’s College Gameday will be on site for a special four-hour preview show.
So with all that ahead of us, it’s time to educate ourselves on the Tigers.
Everybody knows about quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Both were first-team All-Americans, Boyd in 2012 and Watkins in 2011. But as you might expect, there’s a lot more to the Tigers than those two cats.
Here’s a quick run-down of some of Clemson’s personnel you should know about:
OT Brandon Thomas: The 6-foot-3, 305-pound senior starts at left tackle and was first-team All-ACC in 2012.
LB Spencer Shuey: Like Thomas, has already graduated. The 6-3, 230-pounder was the Tigers’ leading tackler last year.
DE Vic Beasley: After bouncing between positions and kind of trying to find his way, this 6-3, 235-pound junior from Adairsville found a home at defensive end and is starting to come into his own. Led team with 8 sacks last year.
S Travis Blanks: This is a kid from North Florida that Georgia heavily recruited and he’s showing why. Tigers’ best DB was an 8-game starter last year with 51 tackles, an interception and 7 pass break-ups.
LB Stephone Anthony: This 6-3, 235-pound junior, Anthony was another recruiting defeat for the Bulldogs. Has 109 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks in two seasons as starter.
PK Chandler Catanzaro: A former walkon who earned starting job as freshman and comes into senior year having made 79.4 percent of his field goals (54 of 68) in 40 games. Was second team All-ACC in 2011 and 2012.
WR Martavis Bryant: This is a junior a lot of folks probably don’t know about. A big target (6-5, 200) but also one of team’s fastest players. Took a while to get his head on straight but it is now and his yards per catch (30.5) with 4 TDs should get Georgia’s attention. Adam Humphries and Charone Peake are excellent wideouts as well.
TB Rod McDowell: The Tigers will be looking for this little scat back to come through. The departed Andre Ellington got all the attention last year and deservedly so with 1,008 yards. But McDowell had 674 yards and seven TDs and averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
So there’s you a little taste of the Tigers, who have won 21 games the last two years and will be playing Georgia for the first time in a decade in 11 days.
AJC reporter Steve Hummer was in Clemson this week and here’s what coach Dabo Swinney told him about the level of anticipation over on the other side of the lake.
“I get so excited to start the season, just to play anybody. But Clemson-Georgia is special. I’ve been hearing about it for a long time. It was my very first game when I came here (in 2003), I got bad memories from that game. I’m trying not to relive those.
“My best friend growing up was a Georgia fan. I’ve kept up with the Bulldogs for a long time. This is one of those rivalries if you spend any time around Clemson people it’s one of those things they talk about: ‘Hey, Herschel never scored (on Clemson),’ that kind of stuff.
“It’ll be a game for the ages, opening at night, everybody excited for college football to kick off. Not many opportunities to get two preseason top 10 teams, two teams coming off great years that also are big rivals in every sense of the word to open up the season. It’s an exciting opportunity.”