Clemson football: 3 things to watch for against Syracuse

It’s  the halfway point of the season, and Clemson gets a head start on beginning the downhill portion of its schedule.

A Friday game at Syracuse awaits, and Clemson is clicking on nearly every cylinder. The status of quarterback Kelly Bryant’s left ankle was up in the air, but it didn’t amount to much of an injury and he’ll suit up against the Orange.

Syracuse is 3-3, but coach Dino Babers has pumped some life into the program in his second year at the helm. His team scores in bunches, but the defense is probably a bit too porous to consistently challenge for the top tier in the ACC.

What should you keep an eye out for on Friday when the Tigers look to keep their undefeated season rolling in the Carrier Dome?

Will Kelly Bryant be rusty?

Rust might not be the right word here, because it’s not like he’s been sitting on the sideline for a year and is suddenly being thrust into starting a game he wasn’t prepared for. Really, this is just about how much his ankle is going to bother him and how that’ll parlay into affecting the flow of the offense.

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Kelly Bryant’s ankle is fine, and he should be back to making acrobatic plays like this one. (Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)

My bet is that it doesn’t, given how much Clemson has downplayed the injury in the first place. He practiced in full this week, and coach Dabo Swinney declared him “ready to go” on Wednesday.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see if the ankle does hamper Bryant in any way. Will he try to ease up or avoid getting tackled, or will he ignore it and play like he usually has? Bryant has the right mental makeup to block out any lingering questions about potentially re-aggravating an injury, so I don’t think it’ll be much of a problem.

How will Clemson limit Eric Dungey?

The keys to Syracuse’s offense run through the quarterback, junior Eric Dungey. He has a big frame, a good arm and he can make plays on the ground.

Dungey leads the team in passing — obviously — as well as rushing, so the key to limiting the Orange on offense comes down to how well the Clemson defense will be able to corral him and prevent him from extending plays on the ground.

We’ve seen what happens when the Tigers face dual-threat quarterbacks: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson didn’t have the easiest time evading Dexter Lawrence, Christian Wilkins and the other members of Clemson’s front seven, and he’s the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Will Clemson’s secondary contain Syracuse’s receivers?

Swinney wasn’t shy in his praise for Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips, the two Syracuse receivers who are head and shoulders above the other members of the Orange receiving corps in terms of production.

“When I got done watching the tape, I was like, ‘Dang, I thought Mike Williams was in San Diego!’ ” Swinney said, according to Grace Raynor of the Post & Courier. “[Ishmael] catches everything. I mean guys hanging on him, falling out of bounds, 50-50 balls — he catches just about everything.

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Stopping Syracuse receiver Steve Ishmael (right), along with teammate Ervin Philips, will be critical. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
“And then (Philips), he’s all over the place. He’s in the slot. He’s a motion guy. He’s outside. Those two guys combined, they lead the country right now in receptions as a duo.”
The Clemson secondary has performed exceptionally well so far this year, even without cornerback Marcus Edmond — who on Friday will miss his fifth consecutive game because of a foot sprain. The Tigers are 13th in the nation in defensive passing efficiency, and they allow the 15th fewest passing yards per game.
But Ishmael and Philips are probably the most talented pair of receivers Clemson has faced thus far, and stopping them will work in tandem with corralling Dungey and forcing Syracuse into making mistakes.

The post Clemson football: 3 things to watch for against Syracuse appeared first on Diehards.

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