CLEMSON - If Clemson needs a third running back in the next few weeks, it won't be Duane Coleman.
With freshman James Davis sidelined 3-4 weeks due to a broken wrist he suffered last Thursday night at N.C. State, the Tigers have just two experienced tailbacks remaining in the offensive rotation - junior Reggie Merriweather and redshirt senior Kyle Browning. Some thought the natural move would be Coleman - who switched from running back to cornerback the week before the third game of the season - going back to Clemson's offense.
But head coach Tommy Bowden ruled out such a move following Monday's practice. Instead, sophomore Paul Macko would be the third tailback should the need arise.
Coleman's progress since the switch was the main reason for keeping him on defense, Bowden said.
"He'll be a corner all week," he said. "He had a pretty good little game (vs. the Wolfpack) and is starting to make some progress, so he's really gotta work over there. It's a little more difficult."
Macko is a 5-foot-9, 190-pound sophomore walkon from Wadsworth, Ohio. Though he has yet to see any game action for Clemson, he impressed the coaching staff during the spring.
Still, Bowden is hoping Merriweather and Browning stay healthy in Davis' absence.
"If we need him (Macko) in a game we'd probably have to coach him up real quick," Bowden said. "He's got a pretty good little feel for some of the stuff we're running."
Speaking of Davis, he was in a yellow jersey at practice Monday, sporting a cast on his left wrist.
The 3-4 week timeline would seem to have him back in the lineup in time for the Florida State game on Nov. 12. However, Davis, an Atlanta native, is holding out hope for a speedier recovery.
"I'm going to do everything I can to be back for Georgia Tech (Oct. 29)," he said.
Davis rushed for 139 yards in the first half against N.C. State, but fractured his wrist early in the third quarter.
"Somebody's got to step up and fill in that production," Bowden said. "I haven't had a player rush for that many yards in a half since I've been here."
Bowden said the team spent a good deal of time Monday working on the kickoff return and punting games.
The Tigers allowed N.C. State 174 yards on kickoff returns, 161 to Darrell Blackman. State also blocked a Clemson punt, the second in as many weeks and the third this season.
"We've made some personnel changes," Bowden said. "I've been disappointed because we've had so much success in punt protection over the last few years. But after looking at it and meeting with them yesterday it's just some things we're not doing correctly. And there are some things we can adjust coaching-wise that aren't personnel.
"As for the kickoff coverage, we've got guys who aren't getting off blocks and making plays. We tried to address that today."