Tigers need Allen to develop into middle-field threat

With Spiller and Ford shouldering the load on offense, Clemson hopes another tight end will help

The (Charleston) Post and CourierOctober 9, 2009 

CLEMSON - To interject life into Clemson's listless air game, offensive coordinator Billy Napier indicated the Tigers might show off a new appearance after their bye week.

The beneficiaries of the makeover might be the team's tight ends, in particular redshirt freshman Dwayne Allen. Napier said he is thinking about deploying more sets featuring two tight ends.

"Dwayne Allen is a guy we gotta get going," Napier said. "He's a guy you've got to live and die with at a certain point. Let him go. Let him grow up."

Clemson has scored two touchdowns over its past 13 quarters. The Tigers have produced seven offensive touchdowns in five games, and C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford have combined for nine of the team's 11 touchdowns.

The Tigers desperately need other playmakers to emerge to diversify the offense and take the heat off Spiller and Ford.

Prior to the loss at Maryland, Allen clamored for an opportunity, calling the Tigers a "two-man offense." And with a secondary wide receiver target yet to emerge five weeks in, Clemson might start distributing pass targets elsewhere.

"I think tight end is where we can do that," Napier said.

After Spiller and Ford, Allen might be the offense's most dynamic pass-catching talent, but he has two catches for 17 yards and a touchdown.

Allen has sure hands, can pluck the ball with ease away from his body and "plays fast", according to Napier. On a 3rd-and-34 situation at Maryland, Allen flew down the center of the field, beating several defenders on a straight-line route, showing rare speed for a 6-foot-4, 255-pounder.

Had Kyle Parker's pass been accurate, it might have been a touchdown.

Allen was a major figure in the Tigers' heralded 2008 recruiting class. He was ESPN's No. 3 overall tight end, 80th overall prospect and was recruited by Napier.

"I think he is going to be an unbelievable player," Napier said.

Allen is a player who could create mismatches in the middle of the field, improve the red zone offense and provide a safety valve for Parker.

However, Dabo Swinney is not sold on a major role for Allen.

"He's got a chance every week," Swinney said. "He's got a chance every day on the practice field to do the right things.

"Dwayne Allen is no doubt a guy who can help us. But we have to do things right. There are a lot of things you have to do in order to get the ball."

If Allen's tools translate to him becoming a viable, center-of-the-field option, Spiller might see major residual benefits.

Spiller is dynamic when matched up on linebackers and safeties in the passing game, averaging 15.7 yards per reception. But Spiller has 10 catches through five games after averaging 3.1 receptions per game last season as a part-time player.

When asked why he hasn't seen more opportunities in the passing game Spiller said: "You'll have to ask Kyle. I just go out there and do what the play (requires) ... the quarterback has reads to make reads and the running back is usually the third check."

Swinney said Parker missed Spiller on several occasions at Maryland.

While Spiller also has been more involved in pass protection this season, Parker said defenses have keyed on taking Spiller out of the passing game.

"They are going to eliminate those matchups when they have a linebacker on C.J.," Parker said. "We try to get him out of the backfield catching balls as much as we can. I think people are getting (locked) in on him.

"If we get him matched up one-on-one, I'm definitely going to him."

But if the Tigers had a middle-of-the field threat like Allen, defenses would have fewer resources to throw at Spiller and Ford on the perimeter.

"We are absolutely trying to get (Spiller) as many opportunities as we can," Napier said. "They know where (Spiller) is and I would, too. That's where we have to have other guys besides (Spiller) and Jacoby. Some of younger players have to step up."

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