CLEMSON - Senior defensive end Ricky Sapp said that while he has experienced sporadic soreness in the knee, he was stunned by how quickly he returned to full speed after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL last December.
Apparently, Sapp wasn't the only one surprised.
Cleared for full participation before August camp, the second-team All-ACC performer said he learned recently that team doctors had not expected him to be available until Clemson's fourth game.
"So I actually came back before anyone expected," he said.
Sapp leads the Tigers with five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback pressures. He tallied a season-high nine tackles when Clemson lost to Georgia Tech 30-27 in the second game of the year.
Captain Morgan. After switching left tackle Chris Hairston to the right side to handle Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan for the second half of their Sept. 10 meeting, the Tigers plan to stick with redshirt sophomore Landon Walker at right tackle, offensive coordinator Billy Napier said.
Walker did not play against Georgia Tech.
Morgan, a 6-foot-4, 275-pound junior and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, is rated the NFL draft's No. 8 prospect by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. Hairston said he is a more complete player than TCU end Jerry Hughes, and senior tight end Michael Palmer called Morgan a more athletic version of former Clemson end Phillip Merling, the first pick of the second round in the 2008 draft.
Perhaps part of the reason for sticking to the status quo - Napier said the Yellow Jackets have since moved Morgan to different positions along the line for an element of unpredictability.
"We want Landon to feel like he can do the job himself," Napier said. "He's very capable. But at the same time, you are going to do some things within the game to make sure that we have a plan, just like every other team has done that has played him."
Closing the gap. The recurring theme with Clemson's struggles against Wildcat formations or quarterback zone reads has been the defensive front six's inability to consistently plug their assigned gaps.
Defensive line coach Dan Brooks said the problems have stemmed from missed assignments and over-aggressivness.
"It's real simple," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. "It came clear after we dissected it. Guys got to pressing to make plays. When you start pressing to make plays, you've got problems."
Latest honor. Senior running back C.J. Spiller was named first-team All-America as a return specialist Thursday by the American Football Coaches Association.
Former defensive end Gaines Adams was Clemson's last first-teamer in 2006.
Quotable. "It's probably as different as New York City and Tokyo. I've been to both. They've got big buildings, they've got streets, they've got lights. But other than that, it's a whole different deal."
Steele, on preparing for Georgia Tech's option after dealing with Steve Spurrier's passing game:
Extra points. Redshirt freshman center Dalton Freeman said his foot remains sore after sustaining a hyper-extension during the USC game, but Freeman will start Saturday. He was not on Clemson's final injury report Thursday. Coach Dabo Swinney said defensive end Da'Quan Bowers hasn't fully recovered from torn ligaments despite playing the last two games. ... Spiller will be honored as the ACC's Player of the Year at a luncheon in Tampa today. ... Kyle Parker is the only freshman quarterback slated to start in a conference championship this weekend. Parker is tied with Stanford's Andrew Luck and Southern California's Matt Barkley for most wins by a freshman quarterback this season.