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Clemson Players to Watch

Who are the impact players for the Tigers?

NCAA Football: Clemson at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Last week didn’t exactly go as planned, and things aren’t getting any easier for the Deacs this week. Wake travels down to South Carolina on Saturday to take on one of college football’s behemoths, the undefeated Clemson Tigers. With 2 of Wake’s best weapons out in Scotty Washington and Sage Surratt, the odds are definitely stacked heavily against the Deacs—but as a famous smuggler once said, “Never tell me the odds.” If Wake Forest is going to pull off the upset this weekend, they will need to limit the impact of these players:

Offense: Travis Etienne | Jr. RB | #9

Well this one was an easy choice. You’ve probably heard about this guy Travis Etienne because he is kind of good at the sport of football. Last season, he ran for 1,658 yards and 24 TDs on his way to picking up 2nd Team All American (AP), 1st Team All-ACC, and ACC Player of the Year honors. He also scored 3 touchdowns against Alabama in the National Championship game (2 rushing, 1 receiving) to help the Tigers blow out the Tide and become National Champions. Unfortunately for us, he’s still there and still very good at football. So far this season, he’s run the ball 137 times for 1,214 yards and 13 TDs, which comes out to 8.9 yards per carry. That seems pretty good. He’s eclipsed the 100 yard mark 6 times this season and has gone for over 200 yards twice. This season, he also became Clemson’s all time leader in career rushing touchdowns (48) and career total touchdowns (51). He hasn’t even played 3 full seasons yet! For the Deacs to have any chance of slowing down a lethal Clemson offense, they are going to have to keep Etienne from running all over them like he did last year (10 rushes, 167 yards, 3 TDs). That is definitely easier said than done.

Defense: Isaiah Simmons | RS Jr. LB | #11

Isaiah Simmons is a safety turned linebacker who started 14 games last year for the Tigers. In 2018, he recorded a team high 88 total tackles and added 9 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 6 passes defended, and 3 forced fumbles. He is once again leading the team in tackles this season with 69 (nice), but he now also leads the team in both sacks (6) and tackles for loss (12). He continues to be very good in coverage (would you expect anything else from a guy who used to play safety?) with 4 passes defended and 1 interception on the season. As the Deacs are without their 2 starting wide receivers on the outside, they will likely rely more on the run game and passes towards the middle of the field to Hinton and Freudenthal. These are both areas where Simmons can be extremely disruptive and keep the Wake Forest offense from moving the ball.