"Nuke" Hopkins a starter against North Carolina?


by - Senior Writer -
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CLEMSON – Expect the starting lineup for the Clemson wide receivers to have a different look next Saturday when the Tigers travel to North Carolina.

Heading into Saturday afternoon’s home game against Miami, seven wide receivers had caught a combined 21 passes. Against the Hurricanes, two wide receivers caught a total of four passes.

There were several reasons for the subpar performance - quarterback Kyle Parker had a less-than-stellar day; Miami’s defensive secondary was jamming the wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and Tiger wideouts failed to create separation; and Clemson receivers dropped what looked like catchable passes.

Whatever the reason, offensive coordinator Billy Napier took the blame on his shoulders.

“It’s my job to get them ready, and they didn’t perform like they were ready today,” Napier said. “They [Miami] are really good on the back end and they are physical. But when guys get opportunities, they’ve got to attack the ball and make plays."

True freshman DeAndre Hopkins caught three passes for 39 yards and was on the field for much of the fourth quarter, but he also had a fumble following a 20-yard reception on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Still, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said he liked what he saw out of Hopkins, and the freshman’s presence on the field in the fourth quarter – instead of senior Xavier Dye – would lead one to believe that “Nuke” will start next week.

“Hopkins went out and earned his spot today,” Swinney said. “He stepped up today on the field and proved himself. The one thing he needs to work on is holding on to the ball, but he’s a freshman and will from his mistakes in time. But I think you saw some separation out there today.”

*Turnovers a killer – The Tigers committed six turnovers against the Canes. Kyle Parker threw three interceptions and Clemson had three fumbles. It was the most Clemson turnovers since it committed the same amount against Georgia Tech on October 18, 2008, in Dabo Swinney first game as the Tigers’ coach. Clemson had gone 22 consecutive games without having more than three turnovers. All six turnovers also happened on the Clemson side of the field.

"You are never, ever going to win a football game with six turnovers,” Napier said. "I think the biggest thing is that we turned the football over in particular on the short side of the field. Two of those turned into touchdowns. Ultimately I think that's the difference in the game. Our defense handled a lot of that adversity pretty well but two of those turnovers backed up and turned into touchdowns. One in particular, right before the half, was a critical error on our part. We have to be a little bit smarter and coach them better."

*Ellington continues to shine – Sophomore running back had another solid rushing day, gaining 120 yards on 17 carries. It was his third 100-yard effort in four games in 2010. His running mate, junior Jamie Harper, had one more carry than Ellington but gained just 59 yards.

However, with Clemson facing a third-and-one at the Miami 20-yard line and the chance for a go-ahead score in their sights, Harper was held without a gain on third down and Ellington was stopped on fourth down. The Hurricanes were then able to drive down the field and ice the game on a 29-yard field goal.

“Before that [fourth down] you have to execute,” Ellington said. “You can’t turn the ball over. We just lost our focus. That is how it is when things start going great, and then a bad thing will happen. We were doing good things and then that didn’t go our way. But those are two big plays we know we can execute on and we didn’t.”

*Parker struggles – Parker was just 14-for-33 for 149 yards and the three interceptions, but Napier said he never considered replacing Parker with backup Tajh Boyd.

"I think he's a proven guy in my opinion,” Napier said. “He's coming back from an injury and he's banged up. This is a game of production. I think he came back in the second half and made some good decisions and good throws. That shows you what kind of player he is. He gives our offense a chance to be productive."

Napier was asked if he thought Parker was in too much of a hurry in the first half, and he said only Parker can answer that.

“I think you can talk to him more about it,” Napier said. “I've got to do a better job of coaching him. That's what I would say. I've got to do my job better. Ultimately that's my responsibility. What affected him and the quality of his play in the first half, I'm not exactly sure. He did play better in the second half."


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