Nearly sunk, Dye swims up receiver depth chart

pstrelow@thestate.comNovember 10, 2009 

staff photographer

Clemson wide receiver Xavier Dye scores on a second quarter pass play during the Tigers game against the Seminoles at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, SC, Saturday, November 7, 2009.

GERRY MELENDEZ/GMELENDEZ@THESTATE.COM

  • TIGERS VS. WOLFPACK

    WHO: Clemson (6-3, 4-2 ACC) at N.C. State (4-5, 1-4)

    WHEN: Noon Saturday

    WHERE: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh

    TV: Raycom

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM

    LATEST LINE: Clemson by 8

CLEMSON - Since the dust has settled from the "craziest" week of his life, Clemson receiver Xavier Dye said he has been seeing things a lot clearer.

Dye admitted that before the demotion that led him to briefly quit the team this season, he hadn't shown the consistent work ethic necessary of a starting player. And while he got a quicker hook than others who had made comparable mistakes, his only worry should have been himself.

In hindsight, the one thing Dye cannot rectify is why, upon his return to the team, coach Dabo Swinney commented that he figured Dye already was off surfing in California.

"You might find me out on the lake tubing, but I don't like ocean water," Dye said. "I don't know where that came from."

The 6-foot-5 junior from Greenwood likewise has surfaced from the depths to emerge as a pass-catching threat, riding a wave of momentum that crested during Saturday's 40-24 triumph over Florida State.

Dye had three catches for a career-high 68 yards and a touchdown, the second consecutive game in which he has made a touchdown catch. He scored on a 23-yard pass from receiver Jacoby Ford on a trick play against Coastal Carolina.

At Miami the week before, he hauled in a tough 15-yard catch on third-and-9 during Clemson's opening possession.

The sum total might not be all that impressive, but it beats the unreliability Clemson was getting from receivers not named Ford during the first four games. And Dye, who played 65 of 72 offensive snaps against Florida State, is just glad to have moved past the frustration that led him to quit for nearly two days leading up to the Boston College victory, Clemson's third game of the season.

"I told him I don't know what mountain he went and climbed and hung out on for about three days, but I was going to send a few of my other guys up there, too," receivers coach Jeff Scott said. "He's really been different in a lot of ways since he got back from that experience.

"His attitude - he didn't have a negative attitude in the past - but he's taking (football) a lot more serious. I think he grew up in those two or three days."

After backing up Aaron Kelly the past two years, Dye thought he was due for a breakout season as the next in line at the tall flanker position.

He had one catch for 4 yards in the opener against Middle Tennessee State, but he dropped a pass on the opening series.

While Ford had three drops, Dye was demoted by Monday night's practice, behind sophomore Brandon Clear.

Dye said he was told he and Clear would split snaps at Georgia Tech, but Dye did not see action. Clear played 39 without a catch, likewise dropping a pass on the opening drive.

Either the following Tuesday or Wednesday, Dye met with coach Dabo Swinney - his former position coach - and informed Swinney he was quitting the team. Swinney countered that Dye was making a mistake and "losing (his) mind."

"I was just sick of everything, and nothing was going my way like I expected it to," Dye said. "I was behind in school work. Just everything started piling up on me. I had to look into myself."

Dye spent the next 24 hours responding to a flood of messages from concerned teammates, even getting calls from defensive coaches Chris Rumph and Kevin Steele. He went so far as to make a list of schools he could transfer to in-season because their academic calendars were based on quarters instead of semesters: Ohio State, Cincinnati, Oregon and UCLA.

But the more Dye mulled his decision, the more he considered how much he had invested at Clemson and that quitting on teammates was the wrong route to take. He asked Swinney to be reinstated on Thursday and apologized to the team that afternoon, and to coaches and receivers in separate meetings.

"Basically he went to the end of the line," Scott said.

"I wanted to make it difficult on him because I wanted to see if he came back for the right reasons. Those guys in my room, we have a close group that put a lot of time and effort into replacing some of the guys that left. For him to leave like that, it kind of bothered them and myself, and he had to earn respect back. It wasn't going to be words as much as actions."

When Dye returned, coaches banished him to the scout team for a day to help the defense. He wasn't allowed to dress for the Boston College game or spend the night with the team at its hotel. The next week, he was enlisted to stay after practice for extra work.

Dye said he later learned he was benched because his focus and intensity in practice had not been up to standard leading up to the opener.

Regarded for his inconsistency as much as his ability to make a dazzling catch, Dye said upon returning that he went nearly 2 1/2 weeks without a drop in practice.

His ascent on the depth chart also was aided by the struggles of Clear and redshirt freshman Jaron Brown.

Dye got his chance for atonement at Maryland after Brown committed a slew of mistakes in his first career start. In the fourth quarter, Dye leapt and stretched for a 10-yard grab on fourth-and-2 that arguably stands as the Tigers' most impressive catch this season.

"Y'all are just seeing on game day now what we've seen on our practice field," Swinney said.

"He's learned some valuable lessons about life and learned a lot about himself. He's a great example to other people out there that you don't quit. You keep believing in yourself, you go back to work and eventually you'll break through."

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