Allen, Palmer have combined for nine receptions; Hairston eyes Saturday return

Believe it: Tigers' TEs playing larger role

pstrelow@thestate.comSeptember 29, 2009 

CLEMSON - Dwayne Allen couldn't believe his eyes.

The redshirt freshman had just watched three completions go to tight ends on Clemson's opening possession against TCU on Saturday.

"It was amazing," Allen said. "Me and (position) coach (Danny) Pearman were on the sidelines, slapping fives like, 'Yeah!' "

Allen snagged one of those catches, an 8-yarder that was his only reception of the contest.

But the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder from Fayetteville, N.C., might be one of the reasons for Clemson's coaches to be mutually excited.

For an offense in dire need of more pass-catching threats, Allen has shown flashes of his reliability and his ability to present matchup problems.

He was Kyle Parker's intended target on the second-and-13 incompletion from the TCU 16 with two minutes remaining that coach Dabo Swinney labeled Clemson's most gut-wrenching missed opportunity.

Allen said Monday he didn't slip on the play, contrary to appearances, and that Parker's throw sailed wide.

After bemoaning in the spring what he thought would be a lack of opportunities, Allen said he has been encouraged by the increased presence of tight ends in the passing game, even if incrementally.

He has played between 20-45 snaps in each game as the No. 2 tight end behind senior Michael Palmer and has two catches for 17 yards, including an impressive 9-yard, sliding touchdown at Georgia Tech. Palmer ranks third on the squad with seven catches for 58 yards.

"I look around and watch teams like South Carolina and Georgia and the way they use tight ends, and, of course, I get a little jealous," he said. "But we're successful with the offensive scheme we're running now, and I trust in the coaching staff enough that if they need to adjust the scheme and use tight ends more, they will.

"Coach Swinney talks about it all the time - this isn't friend business, it's show business. It's all about production. If I go out there and show that I'm better, I'll be able to go out and make plays."

Hairston update. Junior left tackle Chris Hairston (sprained MCL) will not practice today but intends to return for Saturday's noon game at Maryland.

Hairston said his left knee is between 75 percent and 80 percent healthy and he hopes to practice full-contact by Wednesday.

"It's really healing at a very rapid pace," he said.

Centers of attention. Redshirt freshman lineman Dalton Freeman figures to see increased playing time the next few games - both at center, his listed position, and at guard.

Freeman said he was supposed to begin training at guard last week before starting center Mason Cloy missed practices because of the flu.

Yet Freeman said offensive line coach Brad Scott has told him he intends to substitute Freeman at center in the latter part of both the first and second halves of upcoming games to provide rest for Cloy.

The additional work at guard also could be a push toward challenging sophomore right guard Antoine McClain.

Extra points. Allen on TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, who led the nation in sacks last season but had just one quarterback pressure against Clemson: "He was a beast. He didn't make as many plays, but I can see where this guy was consensus All-American. He was a man ... a man. Blocking him was harder than blocking any of our defensive ends. It wasn't like his technique was that great, but he was that great of a player." ... Sophomore receiver Marquan Jones is next in line to wear retired teammate Stanley Hunter's No. 17.

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