Thomas Teal grew up a fan of a particular ACC program, while the rest of his family cheered for South Carolina. Either way, they all rooted against Clemson.
The redshirt sophomore defensive tackle from Bennettsville (S.C.) Marlboro County High will be getting his first chance to play at Clemson at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 315-pounder expects to have 15-to-20 friends and relatives in attendance at Death Valley, and also has some friends on the Clemson roster, including former prep teammate Lateek Townsend, a reserve linebacker.
"I got a lot of family that wants to come and hopefully, I can get tickets for all of them," Teal said. "Lateek and I have been talking back and forth this past week. It's going to be interesting.
"[My family] is more South Carolina I guess. I never liked the Tigers that much, and still don't. All of my family was South Carolina fans but I was big on the Tar Heels at the time. I know, crazy."
Teal has been a pillar of strength in the middle of the Wolfpack defense. He has tallied 30 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 13 quarterback pressures in his first full year starting at defensive tackle. He earned ACC defensive lineman of the week for his four-tackle performance in the 17-16 upset win over Florida State Oct. 6, and also had nine tackles and a sack at Maryland on Oct. 20.
Teal and the defense regained their footing in a 37-6 victory over Wake Forest last week. He finished with a pair of tackles, half a sack and four quarterback pressures against the Demon Deacons.
"We were told to get pressure, so we answered with pressure," Teal said. "We were able to get to the quarterback and get him off his throwing rhythm.
"The defense relieved pressure on the quarterback [Mike Glennon] by giving him a short field. They went down the field and gave the defense a break. The special teams then scored, so pretty good."
Some have speculated that Clemson could overlook NC State with its huge rivalry game against South Carolina looming Nov. 24.
"They are a great team and I'm pretty sure they are just taking it one game at a time," Teal said. "They'll come to play."
NC State whipped Clemson 37-13 last year at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Teal was back healthy from his early-season foot injury and had one tackle in limiting the Tigers to 34 rushing yards on 28 carries. NCSU finished with six sacks in the upset win.
"I remember the atmosphere and how our fans were ready," Teal said. "We were ready and everything was on point."
Teal knows the Clemson offensive line has improved since last year and has a lot of size, led by senior center Dalton Freeman.
"They are a good group, big, athletic and pass block and run block pretty good," Teal said. "It's going to be a challenge for us."
CU junior quarterback Tajh Boyd has a scrambling dimension to his game, while senior running back Andre Ellington is one of the best in the ACC at his position. The Tigers are averaging 42.9 points per game this season.
"[Ellington] is pretty quick and a very good back," Teal said. "He is sort of like the back at North Carolina [Giovani Bernard], but with more speed.
"We know if we lose contain [on Boyd], then he can run for 15 and pick up an easy first down. He'll keep the defense on the field. We'll try to contain him the best we can."