CLEMSON – Although they’ll line up with a mission to stop Clemson’s high-powered offense, two Boston College defensive lineman will hold a special place in Coach Dabo Swinney’s heart and mind on Saturday.
Richard Yeargin, who played three seasons at Clemson before an auto accident interrupted his career, is listed as a co-starter at defensive end for the Eagles while T.J. Rayam, whose father Thomas was a teammate of Swinney’s at Alabama, will be the Eagles’ starter at nose tackle.
“Thomas was a great player and a good friend of mine,” Swinney said.
But Swinney is more inextricably linked with Yeargin, who played for Swinney in 2015 and 2016 and served as a graduate assistant in 2018.
Yeargin suffered a neck injury in a car accident in June of 2017 and missed that season, but graduated in December of 2017.
He announced his intention to transfer last April and is playing his final season at Boston College, with Swinney’s blessing.
“I’m super proud of him,” Swinney said. “I’ve talked to him several times throughout the process, talked to (Boston College coach Steve) Addazio several times about him. The biggest thing was making sure he could go to a spot where he could play.”
That place has been Boston College, where Yeargin made his first start of the season last week in the Eagles’ win against N.C. State and has eight tackles this season – half of which have been for lost yardage.
“He’s grown on the field,” Addazio said. “I mean he went through some really tough stuff for a couple of years and little by little he’s chipped away at that and he’s really, you see each week gets a little better. Each week he gets a little more confident.”
Swinney, who still regularly texts Yeargin, has noticed.
“I told him we were going to double-team him the whole game,” Swinney said, laughing. “It has worked out. He’s gotten better as the season has gone on. He’s technically sound, does a good job.
“It’ll be good to see him and I’m just happy for him. It’s a real inspiration. I know what all he went through for two years. I was pretty surprised when he called me back in May to tell me he was thinking about trying to play again. We talked through it.”
And Addazio couldn’t be happier.
“He’s brought some great maturity to our program,” Addazio said. “Dabo said he’s a wonderful guy. He is a wonderful guy. He’s about the right stuff.
“He loves his teammates, he loves being with the coaches. He loves coming up to the offices. He’s fun to be around, fun to talk to – a very very high character guy, terrific person.
“I’m sure that going back, he certainly loved Clemson. He loved his experience, loved his teammates and his coaches. So I think, I’m guessing, going back there’s some excitement about going back. I mean that’s where he graduated from. They treated him great. He had a lot of respect and love for those people, so he’s probably got a mixed bag of emotions going back in there, but I saw him last night. I actually said something to him and he’s pretty fired up, as you can imagine he would be.”