CLEMSON — Halfway through his junior season, Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers is fulfilling the promise that came with his arrival as the nation’s No.1 overall recruit in 2008. Bowers leads the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss; his nine sacks are already eighth on the school’s single-season list; the previous high for six games was Gaines Adams’ 6.5 in 2006.
Those numbers also raise one big question, though: will Bowers consider jumping to the NFL after this season?
In so many words, he did little to dispel those notions Tuesday.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “I’d have to talk to my mother and godfather about the situation,” he said. “We’d talk about the situation, look at it closely and make a decision.”
Getting his degree is important, too, Bowers said.
“That’s the reason I came to Clemson,” he said. “My mother and father let it be known that I was going to Clemson to play football, but most importantly, I was going to Clemson to get an education. I promised my mother and father I’d come to Clemson to get my education.”
Maye’s injury a concern: Georgia Tech provides a bigger challenge for linebackers than any Clemson foe this year with its flexbone option; the Yellow Jackets averaged 317 yards rushing in two wins last year.
So Tuesday’s news that junior “Will” linebacker Brandon Maye is questionable with a calf injury suffered against Maryland could be troublesome for the Tigers’ defense.
If Maye can’t go, he’ll be replaced by sophomore Jonathan “Tig” Willard, who started the first two games while Maye recovered from minor knee surgery.
That would leave defensive coordinator Kevin Steele starting two sophomores (Willard and middle linebacker Corico Hawkins) and a redshirt freshman (“Sam” linebacker Quandon Christian) who have had little experience against Tech’s offense.
Willard is playing with a torn ligament in his left elbow and wearing a bulky brace on his left arm.
“He’s gotten right now to where it doesn’t even bother him,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. “It was a little tender there for a week or so, but he played very well Saturday.”
Steele said as much, but was slightly more cautious.
“When you put a bionic brace on that goes all the way from underneath your armpit to your wrist, obviously playing linebacker, taking on linemen and blocks, it’s a little different, but I think he’s done a good job getting used to it,” Steele said. “The soreness is out of it, he’s practiced really well and played good in the game the other day. He’s back as close as he can get. I don’t think he’s going to hurt it any more with the brace on.”
Hopkins’ return helps: Freshman receiver DeAndre Hopkins is expected to return this week, which should provide a big boost for a passing game that struggled against Maryland. Quarterback Kyle Parker completed only seven of 20 passes for 106 yards, although he was hampered by six drops.
Hopkins was last week’s ACC Rookie of the Week following a seven-catch effort at North Carolina, but suffered an upper-body muscle injury while making a leaping catch in practice.
“When Hopkins got hurt Wednesday,” said offensive coordinator Billy Napier, “It looked like (Parker’s) puppy died.”
“He’s made some plays and I thought we were getting on the same page,” Parker said. “It’s nice that he jumped in there against Miami and was getting open. The same thing against North Carolina, and all through practice he’s making some connections and we’re making plays. All of a sudden he just disappears. It kind of (stinks) and we’re moving guys around.”