Clemson secondary focused on Fuller, Notre Dame receivers

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson safety Jayron Kearse has heard – and read – a little too much about Will Fuller and the rest of No. 6 Notre Dame’s talented receivers.

Kearse took note of Fuller’s post on Twitter after the Fighting Irish’s blowout win over Massachusetts last week that the Tigers game was ”gonna be savage.”

Kearse is ready to answer back on the field when the 12th-ranked Tigers (3-0) face Notre Dame (4-0) at Death Valley for the first time in nearly four decades on Saturday night.

Kearse said Fuller and other Notre Dame receivers Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle are big, fast, exceptional players who will present a challenge for Clemson’s defensive backs.

”After the kickoff, we’ll see if (Fuller) has that same mindset,” Kearse said.

The matchup between Notre Dame pass catchers and Clemson pass preventers promises to be decisive to Saturday’s outcome.

The Tigers are 12th nationally with just 146 yards allowed through the air while the Fighting Irish have accounted for 246 yards and nine touchdowns passing.

Kearse is a 6-foot-5 playmaker – his eight career takeaways lead active Tigers – while MacKensie Alexander is a lockdown cornerback who has allowed less than a third of the passes that are thrown to his man to be completed the past two seasons.

Fuller is a smooth, running receiver who has caught 22 passes for 454 yards, the eighth-best total nationally. And he’s got plenty of help at the position, Brown and Carlisle combining for 26 catches.

”It’s a great matchup,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

And a showdown that’s fired up players on both sides.

Fuller explained this week that his social media post simply meant two tremendous teams were facing off with much of the college football world watching.

”If I would’ve said it like that, I think they would’ve taken it better,” he said.

Too late.

Kearse said he and Clemson’s defenders are ready to answer back with their play on the field.

”They’re getting a bit chippy and talking a lot all through the media and things like that,” Kearse said. ”I’ll just say I hope the refs let us play football.”

Fuller is not the only Notre Dame player getting under Clemson’s skin.

Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell said after last week Clemson quarterback – and Atlantic Coast Conference preseason player of the year pick – Deshaun Watson was a good game manager and ”not overly superior.”

Watson has not put whopping, video-game numbers some expected this year. He has completed 74.4 percent of his throws for 641 yards, seven interceptions and three interceptions. But he put Clemson’s first two games against overmatch Wofford and Appalachian State away in the opening first half before doing just enough to fend off Louisville on the road in the Tigers last game on Sept. 17.

Watson, a sophomore, has not beaten a Top 25 team is his career.

”I think he’s primed and ready to roll,” said Tony Elliott, Clemson co-offensive coordinator.

Fuller has been looking forward to playing Clemson since the season began. He’s also looking for the Irish receivers to make a mark on the public with their play.

”We did it last year and the year before and we really didn’t get recognized,” Fuller said. ”I think we’re starting to get recognized a little more this year. This is another chance to prove ourselves.”

Kearse vows to do his part as well to send Fuller and his mates home with a better understanding of Clemson football.

Kearse, a junior from Fort Myers, Florida, said Notre Dame was among his top five college destinations until he visited Clemson – and set him on a course for Saturday night.

”I’m looking forward to meeting the running back in the hole, catching Will Fuller in the post,” Kearse said. ”Whatever it takes, I’m just ready for it.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Coyne from South Bend, Indiana, contributed to this report.