The Tigers, who have won their first six games for a fourth consecutive season, have handled a mentally draining stretch, including the news last week that former Clemson tailback C.J. Fuller had died.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks emotionally for this team,” linebacker Tre Lamar said Monday. “I feel like we’ve stayed strong through this whole thing. But it’s definitely nice to have this week off because it gives us some time to decompress.”
Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) returns to the field with a home game against No. 20 North Carolina State (5-0, 2-0) on Oct. 20.
Before then, Clemson will spend a couple of days at practice, take part in a team community service project at its home facility Tuesday before a weekend away from campus — and the football field.
The upheaval started two weeks back when Clemson named freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence the starter over well-respected senior — and last year’s starter — Kelly Bryant.
A day later, Bryant told coach Dabo Swinney of his intent to transfer and left the program.
In that week’s home game with Syracuse on Sept. 29, Lawrence was injured in the opening half and it took a dramatic rally led by one-time third string quarterback Chase Brice to pull out a 27-23 win.
Last week when things seemed as if they were returning to normal, Clemson received the news of Fuller’s death. Fuller was with the Tigers from 2014 through 2017, was a backup on the national championship team two seasons ago and only announced this past February of his intention to play elsewhere as a graduate transfer.
Swinney and several players attended Fuller’s funeral service Sunday, a day after gaining 471 yards rushing — with three players rushing for more than 100 yards — in a 63-3 win over Wake Forest.
Travis Etienne had 167 yards and three touchdowns, Lyn-J Dixon ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns while Adam Choice had 128 yards and a score in the dismantling of the Demon Deacons.
Clemson guard Sean Pollard was pleased with the team’s focus through the troubling situations. He’s also happy for the break so players can gain perspective on what’s happened and focus on improving going forward.
The Tigers have traditionally gotten better as their seasons progress, Pollard said, and he’s confident that will happen once more this fall.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is grateful for the downtime, too. He acknowledged the difficulty of balancing the joy of gaining the starting job and seeing a trusted mentor in Bryant depart.
“I wish he were still here,” said Lawrence, who noted the two have kept in contact and maintain a strong relationship.
Lawrence summed up the recent events, saying, “It’s been a crazy two weeks.”
Twenty-two year old Clemson University football player C.J. Fuller is dead, from apparent heart attack multiple sources are confirming.
Fuller the former running back from Easley, South Carolina played three seasons with the Tigers, and was part of the team that won the national championship in 2016. Fuller decided to transfer following the 2017 season.
Information of Fuller’s death – which was first reported by WSPA TV-7 (CBS – Greenville/ Spartanburg, S.C.) – are not immediately known. Sources close to Fuller tell us he died after experiencing “full cardiac arrest.”
A bruising 5-foot-10, 215-pound runningback, Fuller carried 147 times for 599 yards and four touchdowns during his Clemson career from 2015-2017. He also caught eighteen passes for 155 yards and two scores.
Prior to his career with the Tigers, Fuller was a two-way star at Easley High School – playing cornerback and running back. Fuller amassed 3,381 career rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns during his high school career, and was recruited to Clemson by former offensive coordinator (and current Arkansas head coach) Chad Morris.
“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with C.J.’s family,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “I’ve known C.J. a long time and watched him grow up through the Easley (recreational) leagues all the way through Easley High School. I’m proud of what he accomplished as a Clemson Tiger, most of all, his accomplishment of being a Clemson graduate. Our deepest condolences and the thoughts of our program are with his family this evening. May he rest in peace.”
Dabo Swinney discussed the Trevor Lawrence injury during his radio show.
"Trevor, he took every snap tonight, looked great, feels great," Swinney said. "That’s a big blessing for us. His neck’s not quite as sore. It was pretty sore on Sunday but everything checked out OK and all of that, but he was back out there and took all the reps. He looked good."
Coach Swinney said there were a few guys "banged up here and there" from the Syracuse game, but nobody that he anticipates that won't be able to play this Saturday vs. Wake Forest.
Clemson true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence took a big hit and did not return because of concussion-like symptoms against Syracuse, according to Clemson's head coach. does not think Lawrence's injury is a bone-related issue.
"He's really doing great," Swinney said. "He actually wanted to come back into the game on Saturday, but with concussion like symptoms. You just don't mess with that. He was trying to come back and play ... you trust your doctors and all that stuff. They shut him down. ... Next guy is up. We'll find a way to do it. I thought he did some really good things in the first half (before the injury)."
Clemson and team doctors will further examine Lawrence's health moving forward, but he felt well enough to celebrate with teammates after the game, Swinney said.
The Tigers broke away from the Noles in the 4th quarter to secure a 31-14 victory.
Travis Etienne rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard burst with 3:05 left.
The Tigers (9-1, 7-1, No. 4 CFP) and their dominant defense looked to have this one wrapped up when they opened a 17-0 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. But the Seminoles rallied on Jacques Patrick's 9-yard scoring run and a double flea-flicker for a 60-yard TD catch by tight end Ryan Izzo.
Florida State then recovered Kelly Bryant's fumble on the Clemson 40 with 6:46 to go, putting the Seminoles in position to spoil the Tigers' College Football Playoff hopes. But safety Van Smith intercepted James Blackman's pass over the middle on the next play, setting up the TD drive that secured the win for the defending national champions.
Etienne had a 25-yard run to the FSU 5 and took it in two plays later as the chilly Death Valley crowd erupted in celebration of a chance for a third straight ACC title in Charlotte in three weeks.
Cornerback Trayvon Mullen knocked away Blackman's fourth-down pass with 2:13 left to end the Seminoles' comeback hopes.
It's the fifth time in coach Dabo Swinney's nine full seasons that he has taken the Tigers to the conference title game. Clemson will face No. 7 Miami, which won the Coastal Division with Virginia's 38-17 loss to Louisville on Saturday.
For Florida State (3-6, 3-5), it marked its first losing ACC record since 2006. And the Seminoles' landmark streak of 35 straight bowl games is in jeopardy, too - they have three games left against Delaware State, rival Florida and Louisiana-Monroe.
Bryant finished with 151 yards passing. He also rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown. Adam Choice had a 10-yard TD run with 35 seconds left for Clemson's final score.