Blanks suffers ACL injury

Starting free safety Travis Blanks is done for the season after suffering an ACL injury against The Citadel.

Dabo Swinney wasn't "1,000 percent" certain that it's a full tear, but is "pretty sure" that's the case.

"He'll have to have surgery…the good news is, the timing of it," Swinney said. "It's not like it happened in spring practice. So we'll get him back and have him ready to go full-go by the time the season starts next year.

"We're disappointed, for sure, for him. Because he's a great competitor, loves to play, so we'll miss him."

In the 10 games before The Citadel, Jayron Kearse played 234 snaps, during which he recorded 24 tackles and three interceptions. He'll step into the starting job for the rest of the season.

"That's why you try to create depth throughout the year," Swinney said. "We're fortunate that Jayron has been able to get a lot of experience and has gotten better as the season has gone on. He's gotten more comfortable and made some big plays.

"But it hurts when you lose a quality player, because now we're pretty thin. It was a luxury when you had three guys that you felt pretty good about and kind of bringing the fourth guy along. Now, you're sitting here with two guys, one is a veteran and everyone else at the position is a rookie."

The "next man up" at safety is Jadar Johnson, who had 77 snaps before The Citadel. Swinney said Robert Smith, the starting strong safety, also knows the free position, so he could slide there if something was to happen to Kearse.

"Jadar's got a little bit of experience as well. Taylor Watson has played a little bit throughout the year, those four guys," Swinney said. "[Ronald] Geohaghan is a guy that will probably get a few more reps."

Also on the injury front -- Zac Brooks re-aggravated the shoulder injury that's limited him over the last few weeks.

"Zac, we'll re-evaluate him [Monday]. We knew he was going to have to have surgery after the season. We'll have to see where he is tomorrow," Swinney said.

At right tackle

Saturday was Isaiah Battle's second-straight start at right tackle. He'll start there again when Clemson heads down to Columbia to play South Carolina.

"I think he's done a nice job these past two weeks," Swinney said. "I think he's having some fun. He's brought a pretty good hard edge in there, and he's been pretty consistent. We're pleased with him. He's got a big challenge this week, that's for sure."

Part of that challenge, which Swinney called the biggest of Battle's career, will include Jadeveon Clowney.

Though Clowney hasn't lived up to the hype this season, Swinney has no doubt that Battle, Brandon Thomas and the rest of the Clemson offensive line will have their hands full at Williams-Brice Stadium.

"He's a great player. I don't care what his numbers say from this year. He's as advertised," Swinney said. "He's very, very talented. He can be incredibly disruptive. You have to have a plan for him."

The matchup

It's rare that Clemson and South Carolina are this good at the same time. It's so rare that Saturday will be the first-time both schools are ranked inside the top 10.

"It's a credit to both schools, for the type of teams that we've been able to produce here and what they've been able to do there," Swinney said. "To have two teams from the state of South Carolina nationally ranked, that makes this rivalry that much better.

"Alabama, Auburn have two top 10 teams playing in their rivalry game. We've got two top 10 teams playing in our rivalry game. it makes for an exciting game."

Working at running back

Over the last few weeks, Jay Jay McCullough has spent time working with the running backs group during practice. He carried the ball six times for 43 yards on the final drive against The Citadel.

"One of the things when we recruited Jay Jay, one of the reasons we liked him so much, we felt like he brought a dimension to the [tight end] position that we felt like we didn't have. That's what he played, running back, in high school," Swinney said. "It's been a slow transition for him. He's had a lot to learn.

"As he's gotten more comfortable with the things we've asked him to do at our tight end position, we wanted to start training him a little bit with his ball handling and his tracks at running back."

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