BY ARTHUR DiCESARE
The Clemson Tigers at 4-0 and #13 are finally proving they belong after several years with high expectations and no results. Tommy Bowden has always had top-notch talent at Clemson since he arrived in the winter of 1999, is now seeing a team that can not only win the ACC Atlantic but can also make it to their first BCS bowl under his reign. It also helps Bowden’s at the time UN-ranked Tigers beat his father’s number 19th ranked Seminoles in the first game of the season, vaulting Clemson into the polls.
The two key components to the Tigers success this year has been the play of their two-headed backfield consisting of junior James Davis AKA Thunder and sophomore C.J. Spiller AKA Lightning. The two backs have combined for almost 700 yards rushing and 200 yards receiving while scoring eight touchdowns in four games. Spiller who is a native of Lake Butler, Florida almost transferred to the National Champion Gators after his freshman season, when the tailback was the ACC Newcomer of the Year. But it was Davis who was a big influence in calling Spiller during the off-season and talking to him and letting him know how special they could be together…knowing it would benefit the both of them.
Good thing. With Davis and Spiller in Clemson’s backfield, Bowden has the best one-two punch in the country. Davis is more of a north south runner who carries the ball in between the tackles and gets the hard fought yards. But don’t sleep on Davis, he has the ability to take the ball to the house anywhere on the field.
Spiller on the other hand is a very versatile back who is better suited in space as opposed to in between the tackles. He has raw sprinter-type speed with great quickness and a bevy of moves. He doesn’t get the same amount of carries as Davis does but when he does tends to use off tackle runs and sweeps. Spiller is most dangerous in the passing game where a two to three yard screen can quickly turn into an 80-yard gain in a matter of seconds.
Clemson has also found different ways of using each back in creative offensive formations. They have lined both at quarterback and wide receiver. When they on the field at the same time, they have been great decoys for fakes and misdirection plays allowing others on the Clemson offense to flourish. If Clemson can stay the course, they should be hosting the game to decide the ACC Atlantic Division on November 17t when Boston College visits Death Valley.