No. 1 Clemson dealing with rash of injuries on defense vs BC

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — No. 1 Clemson already faced a challenge because of a rash of injuries. Now, the Tigers will have to play without star quarterback Trevor Lawrence after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement released by the school Thursday night that Lawrence is in isolation with mild symptoms. Swinney said Lawrence would miss Clemson’s game Saturday against Boston College. Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for a minimum of 10 days.

The junior from Georgia is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy and potentially the top overall pick in next year’s NFL draft. He led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman and back to the College Football playoff championship game last season. Clemson’s loss to LSU in the title game was the first — and still only — game the Tigers have lost in Lawrence’s 32 career starts.

The Tigers also could be without three starters on defense, including second-leading tackler in fifth-year senior James Skalski. He is expected to miss several games with a groin injury.

Also starting defensive tackles in Tyler Davis and Jordan Williams could be out when Clemson (6-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) looks for its 28th straight win over a league opponent against Boston College (4-2, 3-2) on Saturday.

“It’s that time of year when you get some guys banged up and you have to dig in a little bit,” Swinney said. “We have got some guys that have to step up.”

Swinney saw that happen last week with Skalski, Davis and Williams sidelined due to injuries in a 47-21 victory over Syracuse. The Orange had just 58 plays and were held to 175 passing yards.

Those results need to continue while players are out, Swinney said. The coach did acknowledge the difficulty in losing Skalski, who typically sets the tone for the Tigers.

“Great football player, I hate that for him,” Swinney said. He anticipates Skalski playing again this season, but does not know how long it will take to recover.

The Tigers do expect to have starter Derion Kendrick back at cornerback after missing the Syracuse game.

Boston College coach Jeff Hafley, a former co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, thinks the Eagles will see a fast, hard-hitting Clemson defense — no matter who starts the game.

Hafley said Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables is one of the game’s best and cherishes the challenge of shutting teams down.

“He gets creative and has fun with them,” Hafley said of Venables. “And he lets those guys lay fast, because they can hit it.”

Some other things to watch when Boston College plays No. 1 Clemson:

WELCOME BACK

Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas saw his most action last week against Syracuse since illnesses including the coronavirus led him to redshirt this season. Thomas was a projected starter and an NFL draft prospect when the year began. But his health left him out of shape. The 6-foot-2, 265-pound junior played 25 snaps against Syracuse with three tackles and a sack.

BALANCING ACT

Boston College finally found a run game to add to its strong passing attack. The Eagles had been last in ACC rushing before gaining 264 yards on the ground in a 48-27 victory over Georgia Tech last week. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec led the way with 94 yards off runs of 24 and 28 yards. Jurkovec, a Notre Dame transfer, has thrown for 300 or more yards in four of his first five games — the most prolific start in school history.

TOP DOGS

The Eagles have faced the top-ranked team in the country five times, with their only victory coming against Notre Dame in 1993. BC’s only other win against a top five opponent came against the fourth-ranked Irish in 2002. In all, BC is 31-114-1 against ranked competition, with their last win coming in 2014 against No. 9 Southern California.

PUMPKIN PARODY

Clemson linebacker James Skalski and defensive coordinator Brent Venables did a parody from “The Office” sitcom where Dwight Schrute puts a pumpkin on his head as a Halloween prank but then can’t get it off. Skalski plays the Schrute part while Venables is Jim Halpert, trying several ways to dislodge the gourd including hedge clippers and a baseball bat.

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AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed to this report.

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