Clemson Coaches Hope to Make Running Backs Happy

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON --- When the end of the 2006 season rolled around, Clemson running back James Davis wasn?t very happy with the amount of playing time or touches he received after his breakout performance against Georgia Tech in Week 8.

Against his hometown school, the Atlanta native rushed for a career-high 216 yards and two touchdowns as Clemson rolled to a 31-7 victory in front of 83,000 in Death Valley and a nationally televised audience on ESPN. In the last five games while playing with a sore shoulder, Davis rushed for just 226 yards and one touchdown.

C.J. Spiller sort of took over Davis? role in the following weeks. After rushing for 116 yards against Georgia Tech, he followed that with back-to-back 100 yard games against N.C. State (154) and South Carolina (155). But in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky, Spiller rushed for 24 yards on five carries.

In fact, Davis and Spiller --- one of the top rushing duos in the country at one point last season --- combined to run for a measly 77 yards against Kentucky --- one of the worst rushing defenses in the country at the time. They only touched the ball a combined 13 times against the Wildcats, and neither spoke to the media after the game.

When the season was over both running backs were noticeably unhappy with the play calling, leading to speculation that it was one of the reasons why Spiller almost transferred to Florida this past January.

Because of this, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden and offensive coordinator Rob Spence have done their best this spring to put more in the offense that will allow both of these talented running backs to touch the ball as frequently in 2007 as they did during the first eight games of ?06.
Spence even suggested that Spiller could line up as a quarterback next year. During the spring, Clemson has placed him all over the field using two-back sets and then sending him in motion or lining him up in either the slot or up high in receiver sets. Spence has also both lined up in an I-formation set with both in a tailback stance and Davis sitting in the fullback spot.

Then there is still the same look Clemson showed a few times last year with both of them along side the quarterback in a shotgun set.
?We have done a few more things involving both those guys this spring,? Bowden said.

Though Bowden is pleased with the different ways they found to get the ball to two of their biggest playmakers, he said the spring hasn?t been all about Davis and Spiller.

?I like to keep them happy, but I would like to be more productive in the redzone? The biggest thing, no matter what the style or personnel we use, we need to get the ball into the end zone.?

Happy with his defense.

After reviewing the film from Saturday?s scrimmage, Bowden was pleased with the progress his defense made over the last week.
?I think we have more guys playing at the level that is required, but we are not close to where we need to be yet,? he said. ?We have more guys headed in that direction than we did the week before which is a good sign.

?I have been looking for guys that can maintain a consistent level of emotion, energy and enthusiasm to kind of carry on. I see Rashaad Jackson, Philip Merling, names I keep mentioning because I see the consistency.?

Freshman safety DeAndre McDaniel is another one of those players. During Monday?s skeleton drills --- seven on seven --- he had another interception. Bowden also singled out redshirt freshman Byron Maxwell as well at corner.

?He has done good job. I?m hoping he will continue to improve because losing C.J. (Gaddis) and Duane (Coleman) we will really need some solid play at corner,? Bowden said.

Coming around.

Bowden said he is pleased with the overall effort of his team this spring, but he reminded them after practice to stay focused and remember to work and try to make up for those two points that cost them at shot at the ACC title last year.
?I think we have made progress,? he said. ?I don?t think we are a good team right now, but we don?t have to be. I hope they realize how much work has to be done throughout the course of the semester and the summer. The biggest thing now is that we don?t waste the last two days.?

Ins and outs.

Davis missed practice to work on a paper that was due. He will be back Wednesday? Offensive tackle Jamal Medlin is likely out for the spring with a bad left knee? Tight end Durrell Barry injured his back again and is done for the spring. He was in noticeable pain after practice, and surgery could be a possibility? Defensive tackle Dorell Scott missed practice with another headache after sustaining a concussion last week, but he will likely return to practice Wednesday? Bowden said he has been pleased with the quarterbacks this spring and will release a depth chart concerning the quarterback position after the spring game. Cullen Harper is expected to be named first-team quarterback with Willy Korn listed as second team.

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