Virginia Tech lost the majority of its offensive production following the 2016 season, but it also got one major piece back.
Receiver Cam Phillips is off to an incredible start in his senior season, leading the country in receiving yards with 523.
Phillips caught 12 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown last year in the ACC championship game against Clemson and has picked up where he left off in 2017.
“He’s got tremendous ability, size, speed, quickness, terrific hands. They do a great job of putting him in competitive, winning situations,” Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “And then he wins his share of 50-50 balls as well. He’s a terrific talent.”
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Phillips topped the 100-yard receiving mark in three of Virginia Tech’s first four games and has five touchdown passes.
Venables said Clemson must know where Phillips is on the field, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers will be able to stop him.
“It’s like we were going to throw to Mike Williams,” Venables said of Clemson in 2016. “And you scheme against it to prevent it, but when you’ve got good players they’re hard to defend.”
The Clemson secondary is banged up with Marcus Edmond, Mark Fields and Trayvon Mullen on the injury report this week. Fields and Mullen are expected to play after being injured last week against Boston College, but Edmond will miss the game.
Even with its secondary at less than 100 percent, Clemson has no plans to follow Phillips around the field with its best cornerback, Ryan Carter.
“We did that one time a number of years back, but that’s not really who we are,” Venables said. “We’ve got to run our system. We don’t just play one coverage.”
In addition to Phillips, Clemson must deal with dual-threat quarterback Josh Jackson.
The redshirt freshman is completing better than 65 percent of his passes and has tossed 11 touchdowns to only one interception.
Jackson rushed for 101 yards and a score in a season-opening win over West Virginia.
“The young guy’s done an incredible job,” Venables said. “He’s shown tremendous poise and had incredible success through the first part of the season running their system, both running and throwing.”
Venables added that it is not a surprised that Hokies head coach Justin Fuente and his staff have another quarterback headed in the right direction.
Virginia Tech’s starter in 2016, Jerod Evans, accounted for 41 touchdowns last season while leading the Hokies to the ACC Coastal Division championship.
“They’ve got proven track records. Developing quarterbacks is something they’ve specialized in. It’s pretty remarkable to have the quarterback they had a year ago, just had him for a few months, and to be as productive as he was and have the kind of success they did,” Venables said. “Then they flip the script and turn right around and have done the same thing again this year. They’ve got a great system that has answers, well-coached, very thorough in what they do.”
Who: Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC) vs. Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0)
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Lane Stadium; Blacksburg, Va.
TV: ABC Radio: 93.1 FM