Dabo Swinney says third-down conversions key for Clemson

Associated Press photo by RICHARD SHIROClemson defensive tackle DeShawn Williams plays to the crowd after a tackle against South Carolina on Nov. 24. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said his defense will have to excel on third down against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. Show caption
Associated Press photo by RICHARD SHIROClemson defensive tackle DeShawn Williams plays to the crowd after a tackle against South Carolina on Nov. 24. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said his defense will have to excel on third down against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31.

Swinney says third-down conversions will be key for Clemson

Third down has been a down of dominance for the Clemson Tigers this season.

With a prolific offense and despite a porous defense, Clemson has converted 52.1 of its third-downs offensively and allowed opponents to convert just 34.7 percent of their opportunities.

But in Clemson’s two losses — a 49-37 loss on Sept. 22 at Florida State and a 27-17 loss Nov. 24 at South Carolina — the Tigers allowed their opponents to convert third downs at a combined 55.8-percent clip (19 of 34).

That can’t happen against No. 9-ranked LSU in Monday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney contends. Not if his team wants to win.

“A team like (LSU) wants to grind the clock on you,” Swinney said Thursday after his team’s practice. “We’ve got to get stops.

“We have to get off the field.”

Leslie in limbo

Quantavius Leslie, an LSU wide receiver commitment for 2013, will be unable to enroll at LSU in January as previously planned because he still has three classes to complete in junior college, according to 24/7 Sports.

Leslie (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) will have to retake three classes at Hinds (Miss.) Community College, with hopes of becoming eligible and enrolling at LSU in August. Even that is a questionable prospect, so much so that the website reports LSU is pursuing other wide receiver prospects.

Leslie is rated by 24/7 as the nation’s No. 23 junior college prospect and the No. 5 junior college wide receiver.

LSU is holding at 23 commitments for 2013, plus one early signee, tight end Logan Stokes (6-3, 240) of Northeast Mississippi Community College.

Willis to name four

Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza defensive back Priest Willis (6-2, 199) considered announcing his commitment at next Friday’s Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., but now apparently will just announce his final four schools.

According to the Arizona Republic newspaper’s website, AZCentral.com, Willis’ final four is likely to include LSU. Other schools in the mix include UCLA, Arizona State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Virginia, Florida State and possibly Southern California.

Willis’ stepfather, Mike Walker, said the nationally ranked recruit had a great visit to LSU earlier this month and is “not 100 percent sure now” of his college choice.

Willis is ranked as high as No. 23 nationally by Scout.com.

Meanwhile, LSU has reportedly offered Rummel tight end Cethan Carter (6-3, 240) the opportunity to join the Tigers as a grayshirt. Carter’s stock rose significantly during the course of the Raiders’ run to the Class 5A state championship.

A grayshirt means Carter would have to come to LSU and pay his own way during the 2013-14 academic year, but the school would offer him a scholarship for 2014-15.

Bowl preps

Both teams practiced Thursday in the Georgia Dome and will do so again Friday.

“It was a good practice,” LSU coach Les Miles said of the two-hour workout. “I liked the tempo. I liked what we got accomplished. We’re still not ready to play and are still looking forward to finishing the week.”

LSU players visited children at Scottish Rite Hospital, while Clemson players paid a similar visit to children at Atlanta’s Egleston Hospital.

Players from both teams later took part in indoor Go Kart races at a suburban Atlanta track.

At home in dome

LSU is 9-1 all-time in the Georgia Dome, including a 4-0 mark in Chick-fil-A bowls played there. Clemson is 3-5 in the dome, including a 26-19 win over Auburn in this year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.

Weather watch

Fans arriving here this weekend in advance of Monday night’s game can expect to find seasonably chilly weather conditions.

According to The Weather Channel (which is based in Atlanta), highs are expected in the 40s Saturday and Sunday with lows in the upper 20s. There is a 30 percent chance of rain Saturday.

For Monday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl parade (12:30 p.m. in downtown Atlanta) and the game, the forecast high is 53 with a low of 38.

Miles: Effort no concern

Despite the fact that LSU is still far short of selling out its bowl ticket allotment — 10,500 tickets have been sold out of 16,000 so far — Miles said he doesn’t believe his team’s effort will be impacted.

“I suspect we’ll have to play well. This is a very talented Clemson team,” he said. “We’re going to play here and we’re going to play as well as we can.”

Advocate on the road

Complimentary copies of The Advocate will be delivered Monday to several hotels in the downtown Atlanta area. They include:

Hilton Atlanta (LSU team hotel); Atlanta Marriott Marquis (Clemson team hotel); The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta; Omni Hotel at CNN Center; Embassy Suites Atlanta (267 Marietta St.); Quality Hotel Downtown (89 Luckie St.).

The last word

“LSU is a great team. We’re not a great team. Not yet. They played for a national championship less than 12 months ago and were a play or two away from being in it again this year, so they represent where we want to go from a program standpoint.”

Swinney