All the talk in Clemson, S.C. today will be centered on the Tigers.
There will more than 81,000 football fans draped in the eccentric color combination of orange and purple converge onto Death Valley and they'll talk about the Clemson defense that disrupted Auburn a week ago.
They'll talk about the dangerous Tiger quarterback Tajh Boyd, who can dismantle an opposing defense with his legs as easily as he can his arm.
And they'll talk about the Clemson receivers and how those speedsters will blow by the Cardinal defenders just like they did Auburn's secondary. After all, the Tiger receivers hauled in 24 passes against an athletic and talented Southeastern Conference defense.
However, there won't be much talk on their receiving counterparts from Ball State.
“If Clemson is going to put an extra guy in the box, and play man on the outside, we've got to find a way to separate, get open and make some throws down the field,” Ball State coach Pete Lembo said.
The good news for Ball State is that Cardinal quarterback Keith Wenning has an ability to find a number of different pass-catching targets, so Clemson (1-0) won't be able to key on one player and minimize his impact. But if you listen to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney speak about that position group, there is one player in particular that has him worried.
“They got a little guy, No. 2 (Jamill Smith),” Swinney said. “I don't know, he's is not very big (5-foot-8, 138 pounds), but man oh man, you better know where he is.”
Smith and fellow receiver Jack Tomlinson are referred to by Lembo and “inside” receivers, while guys like Willie Snead and Conner Ryan are “outside” receivers. Lembo's plan – if it can be done – is to get Smith and Tomlinson matched up with slower (relatively speaking when you are dealing with the 12th-ranked team in the country) defenders.
“You are trying to get them matched up on outside linebackers and safeties,” Lembo said. “Hopefully that gives them a little bit more of an advantage in terms of their wiggle and their body control, and then finding holes in the zone and separating from their man.”
Finding those weak areas in the Clemson defense is something that Swinney believes the Cardinal players are capable of because of their football intelligence.
“The Ball State receivers are all well coached,” Swinney said. “They understand what they are doing. They understand their scheme and their spacing of their scheme.”
Snead and Ryan will have to battle some of the most highly-recruited athletes in the country as they battle with the Tiger cornerbacks. But Lembo is also curious to see what his younger players can do in a pressure situation.
“I'm anxious to see how some of these young receivers can progress,” Lembo said. “(Sophomore) Chris Shillings played a lot against Eastern Michigan when Jack left the game (due to injury) and played pretty well. And KeVonn Maben and Jordan Williams are two freshmen that sooner or later are going to see action for us. We need to see how they'll perform under pressure. They are both physical specimens and guys that have bright futures ahead of them.”