Feeling The Need For … Speed
Tigers have speed to burn with nation's fastest duo in Ford, Spiller
By Travis Sawchik
The Post and Courier
Friday, September 18, 2009
CLEMSON -- Asked who would win a footrace between Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said it's not even close. Swinney jokingly said Ford could look back and motion for Spiller to catch up.
Despite the ribbing from his coach, Spiller has plenty of speed, too. In fact, Ford and Spiller combine to give Clemson the fastest running back-receiver combination in the country, according to NFLdraftscout.com's top 200 draft eligible prospects at their respective positions.
C.J. Spiller (28) and Jacoby Ford (6) have helped Clemson accumulate 10 plays of 20-plus yards so far this season.
The duo's speed was not fully taken advantage of last season, as it was Spiller and Ford who were collectively waving the offense to catch up. But through two games this season, the offense has flashed glimpses of explosiveness.
The Tigers' newfound big-play ability matches up against an undersized Boston College defensive line and young linebacking group Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
"They have tremendous speed," Eagles coach
Frank Sapziani said. "They can run it down your throat, throw it over you or run it around you."
Such was not always the case last season when Clemson produced 53 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or more. The mark was the second lowest since the school began tracking the stat in 2002.
Moreover, in a season when offenses backtracked across the ACC in medieval fashion, Clemson averaged 3.4 yards on the ground, ahead of only Duke and Wake Forest.
This season, the Tigers have already accumulated 10 plays of 20-plus yards, including Ford's career-long 77-yard touchdown at Georgia Tech.
"I told some NFL scouts I don't know what Jacoby is going to run at the combine, but I have a hamburger on it that it is going to be the fastest time," said Swinney about Ford, who has broken 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Spiller added a 63-yard scoring catch in Atlanta. He had only one play of greater distance last season.
Swinney and Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier talked about Kyle Parker adding an element of explosiveness to the offense in the preseason with his throwing ability, and that was clearly on display at Georgia Tech.
Clemson has not averaged eight yards or better per pass attempt since 1989.
While some have harped on Parker's 47.1 completion percentage, perhaps more important is that the freshman quarterback is averaging 8.23 yards per attempt.
Former Clemson quarterbacks Woody Dantzler, Cullen Harper and Charlie Whitehurst never broke eight yards per attempt in a season.
And if Parker was not victimized by five drops thus far, he would have a 56.8 completion percentage and be near 10 yards per pass attempt.
Combined with gains along the offensive front, Parker's arm and pocket presence may allow Ford and Spiller to reach their college potential this fall.
There were the two 60-yard-plus scoring strikes through the air Thursday, but Swinney was especially impressed with Ford's ability to snare a Parker laser away from his body on a key third-down crossing route.
"Everyone thinks about him as having track speed," Swinney said of Ford. "He's a football player … he has no problem going across the middle on that catch he made on third down on the first drive. If he keeps his balance he might score. He had full extension and showed how strong his hands are."
Reach Travis Sawchik at email@example.com
and check out his Clemson blog at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks