CLEMSON - Good luck determining Da'Quan Bowers' signature play after Clemson's first two games.
The sophomore defensive end himself pleads ignorance, citing a lack of choices.
In the interest of full disclosure, observers awaiting Bowers' breakthrough need to be aware that his anonymity is mostly by design.
"He's starting to understand what butters his biscuit," defensive ends coach Chris Rumph said.
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Having declared 10 sacks a reasonable goal - after tallying just one in a platoon role last year - the ballyhooed 6-foot-4, 265-pound Bamberg native has gotten off to a modest start, compiling two tackles for loss, two quarterback pressures and zero sacks through two games.
But contrary to his freshman year, during which coaches routinely prodded Bowers to raise his work ethic to match his skills, his contributions behind the scenes have elicited praise. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele told ESPN last week that Bowers reminds him of former NFL star Reggie White.
Perhaps no defender stands to benefit more from the Tigers (1-1, 0-1 ACC) first game against a conventional offense - Saturday against Boston College (2-0, 0-0) - more than Bowers, even if he is pegged to battle preseason first-team all-conference left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
Bowers largely was contained against Middle Tennessee's two weeks ago because of the Blue Raiders' quick passing game and penchant for quarterback draws and screen passes.
Against Georgia Tech, Bowers was hovering back at the line of scrimmage - where he was supposed to be.
Because of his rare combination of size, speed and strength, Steele charged Bowers with locking in on Tech's 235-pound running back Jonathan Dwyer, the reigning ACC player of the year.
Lining up at end on the back side of the formation, Bowers was assigned the duties of an interior tackle, collapsing inside to plug the option dive up the middle that is Dwyer's bread-and-butter. Consequently, Dwyer finished with 66 yards on 18 carries, his third-lowest output in 15 games under coach Paul Johnson's flexbone system. Bowers tallied six tackles.
"What we asked him to do was pretty much give himself up so other people could make plays," Rumph said. "He did a great job of that and actually made some amazing plays himself.
"Last year at this time, we probably couldn't have asked him to do the things that he did because of maturity. But he's bought in to what we're asking him to do, and the sky's the limit for him."
Bowers agreed with Rumph's assessment, suggesting his biggest gains since last season have occurred in the ego and perspective departments.
He now understands why certain plays require him to move inside when it seemed easier to go outside and trust his superior physical gifts. As a result, Bowers said he has gained a greater appreciation for refining the techniques that make his assignments more effective.
"It all comes with time," Bowers said. "As you learn the game, you learn you don't have to make every play.
"I had to learn that. When I came here, I was trying to be the big dog, trying to make all the big plays. But as the season went on, I learned that everyone depends on everybody. Once you do your job, it all falls into place."
Bowers figures his numbers should soon fall in place as well. Clemson's schedule now will allow Steele to unveil the package that Bowers starred throughout the spring and August.
"He's just going to continue to get better as the season goes on and we start to cut him loose," Rumph said. "We really haven't been able to cut any of those guys up front loose. Hopefully this weekend, we'll get the chance to do the things we'd been doing in camp."