Clemson University

Tigers hope to limit big plays

CLEMSON - The term "chunk plays" apparently has been in coaching lexicon for a while, but this week it has surfaced as the buzz-phrase in Clemson defensive meetings.

The Tigers face No. 8 Miami on Saturday, and the Hurricanes' resurgent offense has done much of its damage through "chunk plays," or plays that have gained sizable chunks of yardage, defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said.

Miami has recorded 26 completions of 20 yards or more, including 11 of 30-plus yards. By comparison, Clemson has 16 completions of 20-plus.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have allowed 11 such completions, partly because of the passing shortcomings of Boston College and Georgia Tech as well as last week's snuffing of Wake Forest's entire offense.

Clemson's trio of cornerbacks have been made aware they figure to be challenged when isolated deep, but coach Dabo Swinney said the Tigers should be as leery about routes underneath that Miami has been proficient at springing for yards after the catch.

Steele said Miami's wealth of skill players and big-play options makes it risky to send the house after sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris.

"So we'll have to pick our times when to pressure him," Steele said. "You live by the sword, you'll die by it, too."

Tight end a friend. The Tigers seem to lean on senior tight end Michael Palmer at either the beginning or end of games, but not both - six of his 12 catches the past three games have come either on the opening or last drive.

Nonetheless, they are on the verge of finally living up to their stated intent of using the tight end more in the passing game.

Palmer has 16 catches, and no Clemson tight end has tallied 20 since K.D. Dunn in 1984.

"It's always nice to catch passes," Palmer said.

Cooper out. Junior linebacker Scotty Cooper will miss a second consecutive game stemming from a concussion sustained at Maryland, Swinney said.

Cooper practiced Tuesday but experienced "remnants" from the concussion afterward, Swinney said. Cooper is slated to practice again Monday.

Down and distance. Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said, based on a statistical study, Clemson's goal is to gain 4 yards or more on 55 percent of its first downs.

That way it can avoid being in second-and-long situations, and the Tigers had averaged about 14 such second downs through their first games - between two and four more than the national average.

Excluding Jamie Harper's 3-yard touchdown run, Clemson collected at least 4 yards on 10 of 16 first downs (62.5 percent) in building a 31-3 halftime lead against Wake Forest.

The Tigers have yet to exceed a 52 percent success rate in any of their six games this season.

Consequently, Napier suggested Clemson practices long-yardage situations more than short-yardage ones because a team averages about one or two goal-line plays per game.

"Your time needs to reflect how many of those there are going to be in a game," he said.

Extra points. Clemson has 16 players from Florida on the roster. ... Six players either have led or been tied as Miami's leading receiver in as many games this season. ... Hurricanes running back Javarris James needs 36 yards to move into sixth place on the school's career yardage list ahead of Willis McGahee. James (2,032) climbed ahead of Frank Gore last week.

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