Coach hopes 'Dos Ocho' grabs attention of Heisman voters before final home game

Swinney gives Spiller a new nickname

pstrelow@thestate.comNovember 18, 2009 

  • CAVALIERS AT TIGERS

    WHO: Virginia (3-7, 2-4 ACC) at Clemson (7-3, 5-2)

    WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

    WHERE: Memorial Stadium

    TV: ABC

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM

    LINE: Clemson by 21

    THESTATE.COM/TIGERS: Live chat with Paul Strelow, 3 p.m. Thursday

CLEMSON - If it takes a publicity stunt for senior running back C.J. Spiller to get Heisman Trophy voters' attention, then Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has the plan.

Copy the ploy of flamboyant NFL receiver Chad Johnson, who formally changed his last name to the Spanish numbers on his No. 85 jersey, Ochocinco.

"I don't know what else we have to do to recognize what he's done," Swinney said. "I am going to officially change his name - in hopes of creating more awareness - he is officially "Dos Ocho," two-eight. He is officially C.J. "Dos Ocho" Spiller. Maybe some people will figure him out then."

Saturday's game with Virginia will mark Spiller's final game in Death Valley, and Swinney has raised the notion that Spiller will merit consideration for Clemson's Ring of Honor.

Swinney was asked Tuesday which was his favorite Spiller highlight.

"When he said he was staying at Clemson," Swinney said. "Standing in the back of that press conference and not knowing what he was going to say. That was a pretty special moment.

"I'd rank that up there with me sitting in my office like this (praying) and he announced he was coming to Clemson. I'd rank those two together."

Swinney was the primary recruiter charged with luring the Lake Butler, Fla., native away from Florida and Florida State. Spiller was named one of 15 finalists for the Walter Camp national player of the year award on Tuesday.

Tightening the vice

Clemson's defense leads the nation in three-and-outs forced per game (5.8) and has fared well against the ACC's premiere quarterbacks.

Still, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said there is a laundry list of areas in which his unit can improve.

"The biggest thing is just that we've got to get - and this is a broad-brush statement - but a little more dominant," Steele said. "We've got the talent to dominate and contest everything. And there's a lot of plays contested out there. But there's still a play here and there where things get away from you.

"It's a lot of things. It's mentality. It's a habit. It's understanding the defense. It's understanding the situation. It's just part of the process."

An irregular Rudy

Swinney wishes one senior could get playing time in Saturday's final home game, but that player is not allowed to dress out.

Defensive lineman Jess Bowers, a 26-year-old from Walhalla, walked on to the team in the spring. But Bowers could not technically be a team member because his NCAA eligibility had expired because of when he started college elsewhere.

Bowers has continued to work as a scout-team player, earning enough respect that a group of seniors have approached Swinney about donating some of their allotted bowl monies so Bowers can make their postseason trip. Swinney is checking into Clemson's options.

"I thought that was a very selfless act," Swinney said. "Hopefully we can find a way to get him there."

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