CLEMSON --- All is forgotten, at least for right now.
Freshman tailback James Davis returned to the Clemson campus Saturday morning just in time to compete in the Tigers second stadium scrimmage of fall camp. The Atlanta native, who has missed the last two days of camp due to a case of homesickness, showed off his fresher legs by rushing for a team-high 69 yards on 15 carries.
“I was glad to be back,” said Davis, who also had the day’s longest run, a 28-yard touchdown. “It felt great to be with the team today. I missed the last two days for personal reasons. I look forward to working hard in practice and contributing to this team.”
Davis spoke with the team before the scrimmage and reassured them that he wouldn’t do it again. It seemed as if his teammates accepted the apology and moved on.
“I believe him,” said Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. “He came in and apologized and said he wasn’t going to do it again.
“He didn’t tell us why he did it, but I think we all know. But, he apologized and I believe him so we’re going to move on.”
Reggie Merriweather, who scored two touchdowns and rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries, said his teammates in the backfield welcomed him back with open arms.
“We welcomed him back,” said the red shirt junior. “He’s a good guy. He is just having problems adjusting.
“It wasn’t a big deal (to us) for him to leave and comeback. Everyone has to pay their dues and I’m pretty sure he will have to do something extra, but we welcome him back with open arms.”
In all, five of Clemson tailbacks gained 209 yards rushing, but the number-one defense yielded just one touchdown to highlight play in the three-hour scrimmage.
“It was a whole lot better this week,” said defensive end Gaines Adams about his unit’s performance. “We couldn’t let happen what happened last week so we played a whole lot harder.
“The whole defense did better than last week. We came out playing pretty strong so we have to come out and play like that always.”
The only part of the day head coach Tommy Bowden didn’t like seeing was near the end of the scrimmage when the defense went to a four-man front. At that point, the offense got ahead of the defense and that caused Bowden some concern.
“We had a little bit of fatigue in a four-man rush,” he said. “We can’t get pressure. We have to really increase that and I’m sure Vic (Koenning) is aware of that.
“We have to be able to get four-man pressure especially when we get fatigued liked we did today.”
The defense was led by linebacker Tramaine Billie, who had eight tackles, including six first hits. Jamaal Fudge was also a standout with seven tackles and two passes broken up. David Dunham added six tackles, including two for loss. Rashaad Jackson, who is challenging for playing time in the defensive line, had four tackles, including two tackles for loss. Philip Merling had four tackles, including a sack, the only sack of the scrimmage.
Bowden said he was pleased with his defense’s effort today, but he still is worried about missed tackles, which was again evident in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“It was a little hot last year versus (Texas) A&M like today was,” he said. “We got a little fatigued and didn’t tackle as well. We started arm tackling. We have some pretty good backs that ran through arms so that wasn’t a good sign.”
Speaking of those backs and the Clemson offense, it did not lose a turnover for the second straight scrimmage. Tiger quarterbacks completed 33-of-48 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns. The ground game picked up 220 yards rushing altogether on 51 attempts.
“There were positives on either side of the ball,” said Bowden. “We didn't lose a turnover for the second straight scrimmage and that was a plus. We came close to a couple of turnovers on defense and we obviously need to create turnovers.”
Whitehurst ran the first team offense against the first team defense and completed 13-of-23 passes for 86 yards. Will Proctor continues to be impressive, hitting 16-of-21 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns against the number-two defense.
The freshmen, for a second straight week, again looked impressive, especially the receivers. Tyler Grisham was the top receiver in terms of receptions, while classmate Rendrick Taylor was the top receiver in terms of yardage. Grisham had five catches for 49 yards, while Taylor had 4 for 79, including a 52-yard touchdown catch from Proctor.