Swinney explains this defensive change to starting lineup

Clemson’s defense made another change to its starting lineup against NC State that had nothing to do with the health of the team.

A week after Justin Mascoll got the starting nod over Myles Murphy at defensive end, the secondary experienced a shakeup following the defense’s subpar performance against Wake Forest.

Andrew Mukuba returned from his elbow injury Saturday night, but instead of sliding back into his starting spot at strong safety,

the sophomore moved over to start at corner in place of Fred Davis, who had started each of the Tigers’ first four games.

Nate Wiggins started at the other corner spot. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said the decision to move Davis out of the starting lineup was based on performance.

“You watched the game last week. It was a pretty easy decision to make,” Swinney said. “Had to give someone else an opportunity, so we moved Mukuba over there.”

The move came after Clemson’s secondary allowed nearly 17 yards per completion to Wake Forest and its quarterback Sam Hartman,

who threw a school-record six touchdown passes in Clemson’s double-overtime.

The group struggled as a whole, but Davis was beaten for a touchdown and intentionally committed a pass-interference penalty in another man-coverage situation to prevent what likely would’ve been another score.

Clemson’s options were once again limited at corner Saturday with the group still shorthanded because of injuries.

Sheridan Jones (stinger) and Malcolm Greene (undisclosed) each missed their second straight game.

Swinney said he thought starting Mukuba alongside Wiggins at corner was the Tigers’ best lineup with the personnel that was available.

“We actually thought (Jones) was going to able to play as of (Friday), but he just wasn’t quite there. And Malcolm, same thing,” Swinney said.

“So we slid Mukuba over there because we really have a lot of confidence in (R.J.) Mickens, JP (Jalyn Phillips) and Tyler (Venables). And (freshman safety Sherrod) Covil is coming on.”

Mukuba was ejected for targeting late in the first half, further depleting the depth at the position.

At that point, true freshman Toriano Pride saw his reps increase. Pride finished with five tackles and had the Tigers’ lone interception that led to points in their 30-20 win.

“Fred will bounce back, but it’s a game of performance,” Swinney said.

“We just felt like Mukuba gave us a little better shot, and we thought Toriano played a little bit better last week, too. That’s where we were.”

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