Clemson linebacker Tre Lamar was “thankful” for the eight snaps he received in the No. 2 Tigers’ 19-13 win at Auburn last week.
While it wasn't much, it was invaluable experience for the true freshman.
“It is crucial just to be a freshman and get reps in your first game,” fellow linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “That’s going to do a lot for his confidence.”
Lamar is considered one of the lucky ones. A total of 35 Tigers saw action on offense and defense last week, a number much lower than the Clemson coaching staff was expecting. And they hope it doesn't happen again when the Tigers (1-0) host Troy (1-0) in Clemson's home opener at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on WLOS.
“That was probably one of the biggest disappointments for me out of the game. I did a poor job of managing our personnel like I wanted to,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I’m going to do a better job of that.
"In fact, I apologized to some of the guys. It’s frustrating to me when you’ve got some guys who deserve to play and don’t get the opportunity to get in there.”
It was that kind of game, though. The most Clemson led by was 19-6. Auburn cut the lead to six with a fourth-quarter touchdown in a game that the national title contender was a Hail Mary completion away from losing on the last play.
“We were hoping in that situation we were going to be able to play a lot of guys and get them that experience on the road,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “But the game just got (tight), and we were focused on finding the right plays to get us a rhythm. Every play is critical.”
Lamar said there were several disappointed freshmen in the locker room after the game. Swinney said there’s no entitlement when it comes to playing time, but he also knows he needs to develop a team with 63 underclassmen for big moments down the road.
“The plan was to play a lot of guys in that game, but it just didn’t present itself,” Elliott said. “So I know definitely over the next few weeks and down the stretch of the season…those guys have got to get in and play.”
Offensively, the Tigers were unable to put in several O-linemen, including Maverick Morris and Justin Falcinelli, who play crucial backup roles. Elliott also wants to see what freshmen Sean Pollard, John Simpson and Tremayne Anchrum can do before making final redshirt decisions.
At running back, Tiger fans can expect to get their first look at the highly regarded running back Tavien Feaster, while Elliott, who gave 30 carries to Wayne Gallman last week, plans to also work in C.J. Fuller and Tyshon Dye into the backfield rotation with Adam Choice.
Swinney hopes Cornell Powell and Diondre Overton will also make their debuts against the Trojans.
Elliott had a plan to play a quarterback not named Deshaun Watson, but neither Kelly Bryant nor Nick Schuessler were able to get into the game. They could both play against Troy, but it won’t be a case where if just one QB plays, he takes the backup role all to himself.
On defense, three members of Clemson’s secondary, corner Cordrea Tankersley and safeties Van Smith and Jadar Johnson played every snap by design, but talented freshmen DBs K’Von Wallace, who saw time on special teams, and Trayvon Mullen have yet to contribute on Brent Venables' side of the ball.
Linebacker J.D. Davis and defensive tackle Albert Huggins are two other players Swinney said need to play because of how well they did in fall camp.
The biggest question is how much will Troy allow the Tigers to get all of those players in this week? Venables compared the Trojans to the preparation it took to beat a good App State team a year ago, but the Tigers expect no matter how close the 36-point underdogs keep the game, Clemson will use more packages with their younger players.
“That's an area we've got to do a better job in, and that's on me," Swinney said. "These guys work really, really hard.
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