Kearse, secondary under spotlight

CLEMSON - Sophomore safety Jayron Kearse knows how well he and the rest of the secondary will have to play Saturday night to beat No. 1 Florida State.


And it goes without saying it will have to be much better than what it did last year against the 'Noles when Jameis Winston passed for a career-high 444 yards in a 51-14 win.

Dabo Swinney referenced a couple of painful reminders along these lines earlier in the week.

"They threw a hitch for a 75-yard touchdown (last year)," Clemson's sixth-year head coach said. "A hitch. A four-yard completion Totally uncontested. Missed tackle. 75 yards. We have to start playing with more confidence."

Kearse insists things are different this year in the Clemson secondary.

There is, in fact, more confidence. And more play-makers.

"They are all talking about the front seven, but we want them to talk about the whole defense. I'm willing to go to war with the guys in the back end. I know what we have back there," Kearse said. "We can win as a defense. We can't win just as a front seven. You have to have guys in the back end otherwise it all goes to waste."

One of Clemson's new weapons is Florida native Mackensie Alexander, who figures to matchup with All-ACC wide receiver Rashad Greene a good bit Saturday night.

Alexander's talent is undeniable as Clemson's first two opponents have largely stayed away from his side of the field.

"It's his time," Kearse said. "He knows the spotlight is on him and he knows he's going to get passes thrown his way in this game. But he's ready. I know he's ready."

The rest of the secondary is ready too. With more experience under its belt at safety and better athleticism at cornerback, Saturday night will be a good measuring stick for just how far this unit has come in the last year.

"We want to be great. We take pride in winning our matchups and individual battles," Kearse said. "I feel comfortable with Mackensie and Cordrea and Robert along side of me. We've come together. And we're ready."

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