|James Davis and C.J. Spiller ready to rebound from Clemson's disappointment|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 09 August 2007 11:30|
Clemson's powerful tailback watched as his team faded down the stretch, his carries dwindled to a handful during the bowl game and fellow star runner C.J. Spiller considered leaving the Tigers to join national champion Florida.
``At first, I was worried, I'm not going to lie to you,'' Davis said recently.
Back then, he had good reason for concern. Now seven months later, Davis' confidence - and Spiller - has returned.
``Me personally, I want to win,'' said Davis, a junior. ``I want to do whatever I can to help this team.''
The duo, nicknamed ``Thunder and Lightning,'' expect Clemson to finish off what it couldn't a year ago.
Davis, aka ``Thunder,'' is a 5-foot-11, 205-pounder who broke tackles and shunt defenders for big gains a year ago. Spiller, the ``Lightning'' of the combo, has sprinter's speed and jaw-dropping moves.
Although Tigers coach Tommy Bowden was evasive about any new schemes, Davis said he has been told he and Spiller will play together this year instead of shuttling in and out as they did a year ago.
``It is exciting because it'll mess up the defense,'' Spiller said.
Davis has the strength to break tackles at the line of scrimmage and move past chasing defenders. Spiller adds the dimension of an outstanding pass catcher - he had a school-best six scoring plays of 50 yards or more - to his breakaway speed.
Last season, the pair combined for 1,525 yards and 23 touchdowns as the Tigers opened 7-1 and seemed headed for the Bowl Championship Series as the Atlantic Coast Conference champions.
``That's when everything went downhill,'' Spiller said.
Against Virginia Tech, Davis and Spiller managed just 71 yards - their lowest output of the season - and Clemson fell 24-7. More important, the game proved to be a blueprint on corralling the Tigers, who stumbled down the stretch at 1-4. Davis had 226 yards and only one of his school-record tying 17 touchdowns in Clemson's final five games.
The low point for Davis came at the Music City Bowl when he ran a season-low eight times for 53 yards and no TDs in Clemson's 28-20 defeat to Kentucky.
Soon after came the departure of Burton Burns, Clemson's running backs coach the past eight seasons, and the nonstop talk that Spiller, from Lake Butler, Fla., was set to play for the Gators and ease some of his homesickness from being away from his family and young daughter.
Davis remembered when he was a heralded first-year player and he left camp to go home to Atlanta for several days because he was frustrated. He went on to become the ACC's rookie of the year and lead the conference in total rushing last fall.
``I told C.J. I left my first year,'' Davis said. ``But I had to look at things in another way. If we win games, everybody's going to play.''
Spiller, too, chose to stay at Clemson.
``It's all behind me,'' Spiller said.
He knows he would've left many disappointed fans behind had he gone to Florida. He's just happy to be part of what's ahead.
``We're all real excited,'' Spiller said. ``If we stick together as a unit and not play selfish we can go real far.''
That's a direction Davis and the rest of the Tigers are aiming for.