Clemson players are expecting another rude greeting from South Carolina fans Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain, tight end Jordan Leggett and wide receiver Charone Peake have played at South Carolina before and said Tuesday they realized early they were not going to be welcomed with open arms in Columbia.
“When we get there when we pull up on the bus they were rocking the buses. All the fans were doing stuff like that. It’s definitely a hostile environment,” Leggett said. “It definitely makes you think if we have enough police escorts and stuff like that. Other than that it definitely gets you ready for the game and hypes you up.”
Mac Lain, who redshirted in 2011 and played at USC in 2013, said he had objects thrown at him both years.
“When we walk into that stadium and I see lighters or batteries, just cans and stuff being thrown at players, I was just like ‘Wow, this is something else,’” he said. “Then the next year that we went there, I guess my sophomore year, just the same thing. It’s just a constant reminder that this is a real deal type of thing and you better be ready.”
Peake, a senior, said he had objects thrown at him as well.
“It was bad. When I went it was my freshman year and it was very ugly,” he said. “They were really rude fans. They were making some pretty wild comments as we were heading to the locker room.”
Words can’t describe playing at USC
Leggett said he has talked with freshmen and sophomores about what it’s like to play at South Carolina but added that telling players isn’t enough. You have to experience it for yourself.
“You really can’t tell them what the rivalry’s like until they actually make that trip up to Columbia,” he said. “I had to do that freshman year and they legitimately hated us. That’s basically when I found out why the rivalry is the way it was. There’s really nothing we can tell them. We can hype it up as much as we want to but really they won’t understand it until we get to the atmosphere down there.”
Expecting a strong environment
Mac Lain said he expects South Carolina fans to still be fired up despite USC’s 3-8 record, and he will be disappointed if the crowd isn’t good on Saturday.
According to Mac Lain, Williams-Brice Stadium is one of the loudest stadiums he has played in.
“These last couple of years it’s been very loud. They bring it every single Saturday when we come. With us being at a noon game I hope that that doesn’t take away from the environment,” he said. “We hope their fans bring it. When they’re at their loudest they’re probably right up there next to us.”
Mac Lain is disappointed USC is 3-8 for two reasons -- it hurts Clemson’s strength of schedule and takes the national spotlight away from the rivalry. Still, he believes Carolina will bounce back soon.
“The way that they’ve been playing I wouldn’t have seen this. They’ve had a great five-year run, but they’ll get it back together and make this a good rivalry like it always is,” he said. “I would rather them be No. 2 in the nation and this be an 8’o clock game on ABC. So no, I don’t have any satisfaction for them losing other than to us.”
Venables: ‘We need to come out and play well’
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said he isn’t as worried about USC throwing the kitchen sink at Clemson as he is about the Gamecocks running their normal playbook, which is already tough to prepare for.
“They’re just naturally multiple in what they do. They don’t just do a few things. They’re already multiple. I don’t think they need the kitchen sink to beat us. We need to come out and play well,” he said.
Venables said USC wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is probably the most dynamic playmaker the Tigers will face this season.
Swinney said star defensive end Shaq Lawson “is an NFL dude,” and if he’s ready to turn pro that’s fine as long as he comes ready to play for the rest of the year. .. The game won’t be much different for Swinney without Steve Spurrier on the opposite sideline. “I don’t get excited about the opponent’s coach in pregame. I’m just getting ready for the game,” he said. “Our conversations were always short and brief.”