Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney confirmed reports that surfaced late Tuesday night that the team sent freshman wide receiver Deon Cain, redshirt junior tight end Jay Jay McCullough and fifth-year senior kicker Ammon Lakip home after a "violation of team rules." The reports have stated the punishments are for failed drug tests.
Swinney said during his Wednesday morning press conference that none of the three will play should Clemson beat Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal Thursday night and advance to the national championship game Jan. 11 in Glendale, Arizona.
“We have rules,” Swinney said. “When you break them, you put me in a situation where we’re going to do what’s right.”
Cain, a backup wide receiver, is second on the team in receiving yards (582), tied for second in touchdown catches (five) and tied for third in receptions (34).
McCullough has no catches this season.
Lakip kicks off and backs up freshman kicker Greg Huegel on field goals and extra points.
“Those guys have all forfeited the opportunity to be with us for the remainder of postseason play,” Swinney said. “Ammon already graduated. Jay Jay is not a senior but he will have the opportunity to come back as a senior and graduate by the summer. He’ll have an opportunity to move on if he wants to play somewhere else next year he’ll have that opportunity. He won’t be back with us at Clemson.”
“Deon has an opportunity to come back to school and rejoin the team if he grows up and does what he’s supposed to do. If he doesn’t, then he won’t. It’s pretty simple.”
Swinney expressed his disappointment in the three players, but said the suspensions will not affect his team’s preparation for Thursday’s game.
“It doesn’t affect our team,” Swinney said. “We had a great practice yesterday. This is what I do and it’s part of my job. When you have 115 guys on your roster especially young people, you are going to have discipline issues. At the end of day there are going to be consequences for your actions.
“We always reinforce that and instill that in our program. It doesn’t matter who you are or how big the game is, if you break the rules, you’re not playing. I love those guys and those three aren’t bad guys. But we have rules and all of this is a privilege.”
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Clemson’s issue would also not impact his team’s preparation.
“It won't change anything we do, no,” Stoops said. “I'm sure they'll have another excellent player in there running routes.”
Swinney said the absence of Cain and McCullough would not affect the Tigers’ passing game or the on-field effectiveness of star sophomore quarterback DeShaun Watson, a Heisman Trophy finalist who has thrown for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns.
“[Deshaun] had no reaction,” Swingy said. “He just went to practice. We’ll be ok.”
Swinney said he expected senior Charone Peake to play a larger role in Thursday’s game. Peake is the team’s second-leading receiver with 40 catches, 563 yards and five touchdowns.
“This just means Charone’s going to play more snaps,” Swinney said, referring to Peake, who starts ahead of Cain. “He’s certainly capable of doing that. He’s our starter. We just have rotated those guys. Deon’s the backup. We’ve got plenty of guys on the field that have made plays.”
Swinney also said freshman Trevion Thompson, who has 10 catches for 115 yards, could make an impact.
“Trevion is a great player and that’s why we recruited him,” Swinney said. “He’s got attribute. He’s had some big moments for us and he’s one of those guys that has improved each and every week. He’s had an excellent fall for us and is capable of making any play we need. We’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.”