Tigers need best from Breeland

CLEMSON – A year ago, all Bashaud Breeland could do was watch.

Sidelined with a groin injury, Clemson's junior cornerback stood on Memorial Stadium's sideline, helpless as Dylan Thompson methodically picked apart the Tigers' defense and secondary in a 27-17 victory.

"Me missing the game, it was a terrible feeling," Breeland said. "Not much I could do."

As the No. 6 Tigers prepare for Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff at No. 10 South Carolina, plenty has changed for Breeland. He has become perhaps the Tigers' best cover corner, and this time, he'll be helping pick up the slack for another injured teammate.

With starting safety Travis Blanks sidelined by a torn ACL suffered against The Citadel, freshman Jayron Kearse will be making his second career start.

"I've got a lot of confidence in Jayron," Breeland said. "He's a young player but he's very talented. When you see a young player like that that's talented, you're going to get what you want out of him. So if we can bring him along, he can learn with us and he'll be able to help."

Losing Blanks, Breeland said, was "very tough." "He's a leader and an experienced player, and he's real smart for his age," he said of Blanks.

"There's different things that he can do that Jayron don't know yet, because of his age level and not as much experience starting the game. But next man up has to step up."

Breeland says he knows what kind of player Kearse can be, saying his friend has "freaky" size and strength on a 6-foot-4 frame.

"A lot of the games he's played, turnovers have happened a lot," he said of Kearse. "The quarterback didn't know where he was coming. He's looking to come one way and he comes another way." Breeland has confounded plenty of quarterbacks himself this season. He has 62 tackles, and a team-leading 13 pass breakups and team-leading four interceptions. After struggling with groin and leg injuries last season, he's fully healthy, and it shows.

"It's the same thing, just preparation," he said. "My drive to want to win, that's basically it. I'm glad (people) are taking notice now."

He'll need to have his best game Saturday against South Carolina. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw is highly efficient, throwing for 20 touchdowns against just one interception. While there are no true standouts in the Gamecocks' receiving corps, Breeland says there are "multiple receivers who can make game-changing plays."

"We're going to have to get turnovers," he said. "We have to win the turnover margin, like coach Swinney says every week. The offense has to take care of the ball, we have to get it away. We have to get our offense on the field as much as possible."

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