Set to take on Louisville on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET, Clemson will have its hands full this weekend, and there are multiple Tigers that fans should watch closely.
Coming off a 21-point loss to Notre Dame last week, Clemson comes into this game with much on the line, as a loss will almost guarantee another season without a College Football Playoff (CFP) appearance.
As the Tigers’ coaching staff looks to rebound themselves, the players are also looking to have a bounce-back performance at home.
Winning the game will be no easy feat, however, as Louisville is on a four-game winning streak, the last two wins of which have come over Wake Forest and James Madison.
That said, here are five Clemson players to keep an eye on against the Cardinals.
Will Shipley, Running back
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Clemson’s formula on offense is simple: give Shipley the ball and let him work. With the early deficit against Notre Dame last week, the sophomore running back didn’t have many opportunities, finishing with just 63 rushing yards on 12 carries. Those numbers won’t be enough this week, either, as Lousiville is just as stingy against the pass as Notre Dame. Although the Cardinals are only giving up 133.8 rushing yards per game, Shipley should have many more opportunities to bounce back in a convincing fashion.
Trenton Simpson, Linebacker
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Malik Cunningham is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the nation, so Simpson and the rest of the Tigers’ front seven will need to do their best at containing the dual-threat signal-caller. With his athleticism, Simspon will likely have the best chance at corraling Cunningham on multiple occasions. Defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin admitted this week that the Tigers are still looking for a vocal leader on defense. There is no better time than the present for Simpson to emerge as that guy.
K.J. Henry, Defensive end
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Like Simpson, Henry is one of the players who can emerge as that vocal leader for Clemson’s defense. The fifth-year defensive end has some of the most experience and has played at a high level throughout this season. After giving up a season-high 262 rushing yards vs. Notre Dame last week, Henry and the rest of the Tigers’ defense have an opportunity against Lousiville on Saturday to revert back to their previous level of play.
E.J. Williams, Wide receiver
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With wide receiver Beaux Collins out this week with a shoulder injury, Williams is a pass-catcher that could see much more action than usual. The coaching staff listed the junior as a co-starter with Brannon Spector on the outside, so Williams may be the guy who runs out with the first-team offense against the Cardinals. Although he only has six receptions for 61 yards on the season, Williams still has the potential to become a reliable playmaker. A former four-star recruit, Williams could provide a much-needed spark in the Tigers’ passing game.
DJ Uiagalelei, Quarterback
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It’s make-or-break time for Uiagalelei. The junior signal-caller is starting down another potential benching if he plays poorly, and if that comes to fruition, it may be permanent this time. Uiagalelei didn’t play as poorly against Notre Dame as he did against Syracuse, completing 27 of 39 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Swinney even said on Wednesday that the pick-six was Joseph Ngata’s fault, not Uiagalelei’s. Still, if the Tigers’ offense puts the defense in a poor position, Louisville’s offense is lethal enough to cause problems. Clemson can’t afford a repeat performance of last week, and justified or not, all eyes will be on Uiagalelei to lead the Tigers to a ninth victory.