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Elliott Ready for 'Good Challenge' From Veteran Wake Forest Defense

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott says the No. 1 Tigers weren't too disturbed by opener changing from Georgia Tech to Wake Forest because of fall camp process and familiarity with Demon Deacons.

For the vast majority of the offeason, Tony Elliott was preparing and scouting for a Week 1 matchup with Georgia Tech. 

The Clemson offensive coordinator found out just as the top-ranked Tigers were starting fall camp that wasn't the case any longer. They're opening up Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Wake Forest instead, but it hasn't created a headache for the offensive play-caller. 

"In terms of the in-camp process it really hasn't changed and then now the last week and a half, two weeks we flipped over to Wake Forest so that's really the only change is that now when we actually are getting into the game planning of a specific opponent," Elliott said Monday during his first game-week press conference of 2020. "We had a lot of the summer and a lot of the spring when we were at home, we were able to get a good head start on Georgia Tech, but that really hasn't changed now that we know we're playing Wake Forest."

One advantage of such a late schedule change, despite the fact that coaches were showing players what to look for with Georgia Tech, is that Wake Forest is such a common opponent. Elliott says he doesn't expect the Demon Deacons to vary much from what they've done the past couple of years under defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill. 

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"It's a bunch of guys that play hard. They're very, very well-coached they're very, very disciplined, very sound in what they do," Elliott said. "They play all the way to the whistle, they communicate well. In particular, they've got five seniors on defense, they got nine returning starters, including (cornerback Luke Masterson) who is coming back from injury, so a ton of experience. The only place where they might not be quite as experienced is at the corners, but even one of the corners that the one that they don't start at the boundary played a lot last year so it's a very, very veteran football team has been playing together for a long time."

Basham

A player who has everyone's attention is defensive end Carlos Basham Jr., a preseason All-American pass-rusher and one of the best at his position in the country. Wake Forest will look to turn him loose especially on third downs, where Elliott said the defense's experience allows it to show the offense complicated looks with odd packages and a multitude of coverages, Elliott said.

Clemson brings back the talented backfield of quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, but the Demon Deacons do get a chance to get after four new offensive line starters and unproven backups, as well as a receiving corps that's without its top 2 options from last season when the Tigers destroyed Wake Forest 52-3. 

"I think it's just gonna be a lot of excitement all the way around," Elliott said. "From our guys to their guys, it's an opportunity to play, so I anticipate is going to be a good challenge and a good matchup for us."