TACKLING TODD: Clemson safety Robert Smith has endured quite a ride during his career in Tigertown.
Having played quarterback his entire high school career, it took a couple of seasons to make the full time adjustment to defense.
"Most people don't know this but I never played defense in my entire life before I got to Clemson," Smith tells CUTigers. "So yeah, it took me a little bit to make that adjustment."
Of course, a lot has changed since then. Now entering his senior season, Smith was singled out by defensive coordinator Brent Venables in fall camp as "being in a league of his own."
He's solidified his spot as the starting strong safety at a chiseled 211 pounds.
Smith says he'll need every ounce of that weight when battling Todd Gurley and the Bulldogs Saturday night.
"I remember him from last year," he said. "It's like you are trying to tackle a tree trunk. He's a load. But we're ready."
Gurley rushed just 12 times in last year's game, but amassed over 150 yards and two touchdowns. He's also a dangerous receiving threat as well- especially now that he's healthy.
"We'll be ready. We know he's one of the best," Smith said.
LIFE ON THE ROAD: The start 2014 season will be somewhat different in the sense the opener will be played on the road. The good news is Dabo Swinney is undefeated in his head coaching career in season openers (5-0). The bad news four of those were games were played at Death Valley and the other was in the Georgia Dome.
Georgia holds a 26-7-1 advantage in the series in games played at Georgia, including a 20-2 lead in games played at Sanford Stadium. Clemson’s only wins in Sanford Stadium took place in 1977 (7-6) and 1986 (31-28).
Still, most players enjoy the road environment.
"I love it," Ryan Norton said. "It's great to walk in a stadium and the fans are booing you and saying things the whole time. We feed off of that stuff. Personally I love it. And we know that's what it's going to be like Saturday.
"You can either hate it or embrace it. We embrace it."
Senior wide receiver Adam Humphries agreed, highlighting one particular incident that has stood out to him over the years.
"I remember last year at Syracuse the fans were all over us," he said with a laugh. "And they liked to compare some of us to other people. I had people yelling at me that I looked like Opie Taylor."
Grady Jarrett, a Georgia native, is really looking forward to the trip to his home state.
"We know it's going to be loud. We know what we are going to be up against. When you go on the road that's what you expect. But we're ready for it. I can't wait to get down there," he said.
In case you are wondering, Clemson has played 118 seasons of college football and opened a season on the opponent’s home field (not including neutral sites) just 22 times. Clemson is 9-11-2 when opening on an opponent’s home field. The last time it did it was 2002, against Georgia.
The Tigers lost that night 31-28.
STAR POWER: Georgia head coach Mark Richt confirmed all four of his talented running backs will play against the Tigers Saturday night- including Heisman Trophy contender Todd Gurley, the former No. 1 running back in the country Keith Marshall, former No. 2 running back in the country Sony Michel and the former No. 9 running back in the nation in Nick Chubb.
While it would be nearly impossible to confirm, it's hard to imagine Clemson football facing a backfield this talented - ever.
"He is a beast," Dabo Swinney said of Gurley. "I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking about him."
Ironically, Clemson finished second to Georgia in recruiting both Gurley and Marshall to Tigertown.
When asked if he ever wondered what might have been, Swinney responded, "No way. That would mean we don't have some of the guys here that we did sign. I love our guys. Wouldn't change what we have here at Clemson."
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