Clemson University

Screen game concerns Tigers

CLEMSON - Former Clemson offensive coordinator Rob Spence received his fair share of criticism for his over-reliance on wide receiver screen passes.

Spence's tendencies would fit in perfectly with Florida State's offense this season.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele calculated the Seminoles have thrown 37 screens the past four games, a trend that could make it difficult for Clemson's defenders to get to FSU quarterback Christian Ponder on such quick throws.

"That's a toss sweep, not a pass," Steele said. "So you approach that totally different."

Steele said the Tigers cannot afford to miss tackles when these types of one-on-one isolations are created on the perimeter - situations in which the defensive backs and linebackers have been inconsistent.

"A lot of their stuff is get the ball on the edge quick with a bubble screen or reverses or option with an orbit coming over the top," he said. "And you have to tackle him."

Pump up the volume

Clemson has averaged 42.3 points in three games since its open date - compared to 24 before it.

Beyond improvements by players and play-callers, offensive coordinator Billy Napier believes the Tigers have benefited from stocking the game plan with more plays.

Napier and coach Dabo Swinney scaled down the weekly play-sheet when Spence was fired. But after the opening five games this season, Napier felt the need to have more at his disposal.

"I felt like we could carry just a little bit more to give us some more bullets in our gun as the game progressed," Napier said. "We upped the volume a little bit. ... That's probably one of the things that's helped us."

Hairston for Heisman

While running back C.J. Spiller gets the Heisman Trophy hype, junior left tackle Chris Hairston has made a strong case for the team's offensive MVP.

Hairston sat out the TCU loss and missed all but nine snaps of the Maryland defeat with a knee injury.

Clemson is 5-1 with Hairston, averaging 36.0 points, 365.3 offensive yards, 168.2 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per play.

Without Hairston, the Tigers are 0-2 and averaging 15.5 points, 291. 5 offensive yards, 99.0 rushing yards and 4.0 yards per play.

Hands down

Sophomore receiver Marquan Jones (Blythewood) has gone the past two games without a catch, logging seven snaps at Miami and going without a reception last week despite starting in place of the injured Terrance Ashe.

Receivers coach Jeff Scott said Jones' diminished role was a product of the circumstances. Ashe had proven the superior run-blocker going into the Miami game. And in last week's rout of Coastal Carolina, Jones supplied two key blocks on touchdown runs before leaving the game to get the reserves some snaps.

"There's not much difference between Terrance and Marquan," Scott said. "It's just kind of whoever has the hot hand."

Extra points

As of Thursday afternoon, about 5,000 tickets remained for Saturday's game. ... Spiller needs one catch to break his tie with Travis Zachery for the school receptions record by a running back. He is also 6 rushing yards from moving into fourth place on the program's career rushing mark. ... Kyle Parker can break the Clemson mark for wins by a starting freshman quarterback. He has five, same as Rodney Williams (1985). ... When at home in Mobile, Ala., sophomore linebacker Brandon Maye trains with FSU left guard Rodney Hudson.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC