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Clemson Next Man Up Philosophy to be Tested Against Boston College

No. 25 Clemson hosts Boston College for homecoming this weekend and the Clemson defense, who has played at a very high level through the season's first four games, will be missing some key pieces due to injury.
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The Tigers will take the field for homecoming against Boston College one banged-up bunch, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

During No. 25 Clemson's 27-21 double-overtime loss to NC State, Brent Venables watched one key player after another leave the field nursing an injury, the biggest one coming when defensive tackle Bryan Bresee left in the second half with what was later discovered to be a torn ACL.

Bresee's injury means Venables is now down both of his starting defensive tackles, as Tyler Davis is also out for an extended period of time with a torn biceps. When asked how he prepares for the possibility of injuries, Venables said that is something he doesn't put much thought into until it actually happens.

"I mean I don't really spend any time (on that)," Venables told the media on Monday. "I'm like 'who goes in,' you know. And then you try to make adjustments to be very honest. You don't spend any time really being fearful, it's 'okay, what are you gonna do now.'"

The Tigers also lost Mario Goodrich and James Skalski to injures on Saturday, meaning the defense was down four starters at one point. However, there wasn't much drop-off in production and Venables credits the program's ability to develop depth at every position.

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"I think we've done a good job of developing our depth," Venables said. "I thought our guys did well, you know, again, we had (Sklaski) Tyler Davis, Bryan Bresee, Mario Goodrich, those guys weren't in there, I thought the other guys did really pretty well overall. So that was pleasing and that experience will pay off."

A season ago this Clemson team was without Skalski for a number of games and there was a noticeable drop-off when the veteran linebacker was not on the field. While the Tigers are much better prepared to deal with losing the sixth-year linebacker this season, Venables said the defense is still better when he is on the field. 

"The thing that he brings is leadership, and a level of anticipation, and only experience can give you some of those things," Veables said. "So there's a little bit of a void there. And when he's not in there, from that standpoint, which is what you'd expect it to be, it's like taking your starting quarterback, who's been a multi-year starter and all of a sudden he goes to the bench. Then the next guy, probably most of the time, isn't gonna be quite as good."

The good news for Venables and the Clemson defense is that Skalski and Goodrich are both expected back for this weekend's home matchup with Boston College. However, it's safe to assume neither is 100 percent. 

And while the Tigers already knew they would have to make do without Davis, now they won't have Bresee either, meaning Venables is going to need guys like Ruke Orhorhoro and Tre Williams to step up and produce like starters.

"(Bresee's) a really, really good player but, again, we've got other guys that got to step up and got to get better this year," Venables said. "I think this is a great opportunity. I think you saw a little bit of it, I mean I don't know how many plays it was, well over a quarter of those guys getting in there mixing it up." 

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