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On the Beat: Kent State to play without head coach at Clemson; some position battles will be game-time decisions

August 28, 2017

CLEMSON — Kent State’s football team will arrive in Clemson this week for the season opener for both teams, but for the Golden Flashes the inaugural week of college football season has already delivered a heavy dose of bad news.

According to Kent State, the Golden Flashes’ head coach Paul Haynes, has taken a medical leave of absence and is expected to return to his team in the next two or three weeks — meaning he will not coach the Clemson game. The school announced the news Sunday and reported that offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Don Treadwell will serve as the interim head coach in Haynes’ absence.

The university did not elaborate on what specifically was keeping Haynes off the field. Treadwell and the Golden Flashes are 40-point underdogs.

“We fully support head coach Paul Haynes during his leave,” said Kent State’s athletic director Joel Nielsen. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Haynes family as we look forward to his return to Kent State.”

Pollard-Anchrum a game-time decision

By the sounds of it, Clemson coaches plan to utilize every possible second of evaluation before making a decision on who will start at right tackle on the offensive line. The margin between sophomores Sean Pollard and Tremayne Anchrum is razor thin as the final days tick down to the regular season, so the Tigers want to do their due diligence before finalizing a decision for the Kent State game.

“Yeah (the decision will run all the way up until game time) and I think that’s a really good thing,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said.

“I think both of those guys will play and how they do this week will really probably determine who runs out there for the first play. But regardless of who goes out there for the first play, I think both of those guys are going to get some good opportunity in the game, and then, like we’re talking about at running back, it goes from practice reps and evaluation now to game reps and we see how they grade out and how they do. That could be something just like any position that flip-flops a little bit as the season goes.”

Falcinelli confident in making first start

Redshirt graduate Justin Falcinelli is expected to make the first start of his Clemson career Saturday, having been a backup for two seasons behind All-ACC center Jay Guillermo in 2015 and 2016. Falcinelli, who is working on his masters in business administration, indicated he understands the questions that come with him filling a new role, but says he is ready.

“I know there’s a lot expected of me and that I need to perform to the standard but I’ve been playing with these guys my entire time here,” Falcinelli said. “We’re all great friends, we’re all hanging out together. I played next to Taylor (Hearn) my freshman year, I’ve played next to Tyrone (Crowder), Maverick (Morris), I’ve been swapped in a lot, feeling like I just fit right in.”

Shaq Smith not on depth chart

Redshirt freshman linebacker Shaq Smith was not on Clemson’s depth chart released Monday, but a Clemson spokesman indicated there was no alarming reason for the omission. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told the media last week that Smith was dealing with an injury, and Smith did not practice at 100 percent. Swinney will address the media Tuesday, where he will be pressed for an update. Kendall Joseph was listed as the starting weak-side linebacker, followed by James Skalski or J.D. Davis.

Depth for days

Scott made a point to acknowledge Clemson’s offensive depth Monday — not necessarily its experience — but its depth and how far it truly goes.

“I think the depth that we have offensively is probably the best that it’s been since I’ve been at Clemson in nine years,” he said. “I really do.”