|No. 22 Clemson trying to regain 'Thunder' and 'Lightning'|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 04 October 2007 13:41|
The Tigers' running game, so dominant so often the past two seasons, has yet to truly get going this year with James ``Thunder'' Davis and C.J. ``Lightning'' Spiller each battling their own issues.
Davis is working through a shoulder ``stinger'' sustained in last week's 13-3 loss to Georgia Tech. And Spiller? He's fighting through some confidence issues about his preferred running style.
The duo get their next chance at a jump start Saturday when the Tigers (4-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) take on No. 15 Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0) at Memorial Stadium.
A Tiger team that ranked near the top nationally in total offense last year is fourth in the ACC in 2007, averaging nearly 70 fewer yards on the ground than it did in 2006.
Davis ranks fifth in the league at more than 90 yards a game. Spiller, just shy of 1,000 yards as a freshman, is averaging only 40 yards through five games this season.
The flashy sophomore was held to minus 1 yard on nine carries against Furman on Sept. 15, then gained only 2 yards a week ago in the Georgia Tech loss.
``I walked away thinking maybe I'm not as good as I thought I was,'' a confused and dejected Spiller said this week.
If so, that could mean serious problems for Clemson's offense.
The Tiger attack has been led the past two seasons by the effective and contrasting styles of its backfield stars.
Davis, at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, is a powerhouse back who shreds past defenders for large chunks of yardage. He finished with 1,187 yards last season, the first Clemson running back to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in 10 years.
The 5-11, 190-pound Spiller is the electrifying part of the package, a speedy back with knee-shattering moves. He set a school mark at tradition-rich Clemson as the first player with six TD plays of 50 yards or more in a one season.
However, this year the attack has sputtered at times with Tiger coaches trying to crank things up to last year's production.
Much was made during the offseason of plans to get both Davis and Spiller on the field at the same time, instead of the rotation system the Tigers used a year ago.
Now, coach Tommy Bowden said he has talked to his staff about sticking with the ``hot hand'' in the backfield instead of a rigid substitution pattern.
``If they want me in the game, they'll put me in,'' Davis said this week.
Bowden said Davis' shoulder problem is no different than many Tigers this time of year, who are banged up a bit after nearly half the season.
Part of the reason for the injuries could be the loss of most of last year's offensive line, which featured seniors Roman Fry, Dustin Fry, Marion Dukes and Nathan Bennett.
Spiller said he has confidence in his line. He may have less faith in himself at the moment.
He said he has been encouraged to change his preferred style to a more vertical, ``north-south'' instead of sliding along the line of scrimmage searching for a hole.
``My confidence is fine,'' Spiller said. ``I knew it was going to be tough coming into this season. I've prepared for this type of moment. When I hit adversity, it depends on how I respond.''
What Clemson hopes to see are several more of Spiller's lightning-quick TD plays.
``After a tough loss, you think about what you can do better,'' Spiller said. ``And you get back at it.''