According to a report from ESPN, Clemson has suspended three players from its football team for a violation of team rules. The report indicates that failed drug tests were the cause of the suspensions. The players in question are Deon Cain, Ammon Lakip, and Jay Jay McCullough, with Cain being the most prominent. All three players will miss Thursday’s College Football Playoff Semifinal game against Oklahoma and the National Championship, should Clemson advance that far.
Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney indicated that the Tigers’ game plan will not change as a result of the suspensions, and that the three players had to face the music.
“You don’t do the right things, there’s consequences. It’s really that simple. It’s not a complicated matter at all. We’ve got 115 guys and 112 did what’s right and three of them didn’t. They forfeit the opportunity and privilege to be a part of the game. Really hate it for them. They’re the ones that have to deal with the consequences because they’re missing out on a great opportunity.”
Clemson finished the regular season with a perfect 13-0 record, including an ACC Championship victory over North Carolina to secure their spot in the College Football Playoff. They finished the year ranked No. 1 in the final edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, exactly where they started when the initial rankings were released in Week 10.
The suspensions likely won’t move the needle or have any major impact on the point spread, as all three players are backups. However, Deon Cain’s absence will be felt the most as Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson relied on the wide receiver as part of their deep threat arsenal. Cain caught 34 passes for 582 yards and five touchdowns this season, with six of those receptions going for 38 yards or more. Cain, a freshman, helped fill the void left by Mike Williams who went down with a neck injury in the team’s season-opener. Swinney would go on to add that he had to stick to his guns, regardless of the situation.
“We have rules. When you break them, you put me in a situation where we’re going to do what’s right. Often times it’s easier to do the wrong thing, but it’s always best to do what’s right. That’s what we’re always going to do in this program regardless of what people think.”
No question the timing couldn’t be worse for these three as Clemson attempts to win their first National Championship since 1981. But it’s not the first time they’ve faced punishments this season. Cain was suspended for the Miami game in October because of a coach’s decision. The Tigers won easily 58-0. Jay Jay McCullough, a backup tight end, missed a game due to team rules violations. He has 11 receptions in his career, but none this year. Second-string kicker Ammon Lakip was suspended three games earlier in the season after he was arrested for cocaine possession in the offseason. He was Clemson’s starting kicker last year but lost the job to Greg Huegel after the arrest.
It has been a memorable year for the Clemson Tigers. Deshaun Watson was the school’s first Heisman finalist and finished third in the final voting. Swinney was awarded the Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year Award, and now the program is two wins away from a National Championship. Clemson will kick off against the Sooners at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Capital One Orange Bowl, followed by the second Semifinal game between Alabama and Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl.
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