Davis has undefeated Clemson off to running start

Back is among group of freshmen giving lift to 20th-ranked Tigers

ACC notebook

College Football

September 16, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Clemson University has moved into the top 20 by opening the season with two come-from-behind victories, and youth has helped the Tigers get there.

Ten freshmen, be they first- or second-year players, have graced the No. 20 Tigers' two-deep depth chart. Among that group, James Davis, a true freshman from Atlanta, has made the most noise early on.

Davis, 6 feet, 205 pounds, announced his presence with 101 yards rushing in the season-opening, 25-24 victory over Texas A&M. He kept it up Saturday, when he started against Maryland, established Clemson's ground game, and pounded out 82 yards on 20 carries in the Tigers' 28-24 victory.

Junior tailback Reggie Merriweather, who lost his starting job to Davis after scoring an Atlantic Coast Conference-high 11 touchdowns in 2004, took over down the stretch with 75 yards rushing, including the 38-yard touchdown romp that won the contest. Davis helped set up the elusive Merriweather with his combination of slashing moves and power.

"I know teams watch a lot of film, and I want teams to think of me as an impact player," Davis said. "I want them to be waiting for me to do something every time I touch the ball."

With 183 yards rushing, Davis ranks third in the ACC, and his 91.5-yard rushing average ranks third among all freshmen running backs in the NCAA.

Davis ran for 7,339 yards and 80 touchdowns in his high school career, including 2,389 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior.

"I'm really impressed with how well [Davis] runs between the tackles," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "You don't know how [freshmen] are going to take the adjustment to college. We've got close to 30 different combinations of formations, and he keeps getting more comfortable and more confident. For a true freshman to do what he does from a mental standpoint, it's very special."

Discipline from Amato

North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato doesn't want to hear about last year, even if the Wolfpack stumbled in its opener in ways that brought back memories of the team's 5-6 finish in 2004.

The Wolfpack out-gained Virginia Tech in total yardage, 438-232, but dropped its season opener to the Hokies, 20-16, on Sept. 4, largely because of three turnovers and a whopping 12 penalties for 105 yards.

Sound familiar? Dating to last season, N.C. State has out-gained its past 12 opponents, yet has produced only five victories. During that stretch, the Wolfpack has a minus-20 turnover margin and has averaged more than nine penalties.

"I'm not going to let perception affect this football team. They did some things that were unacceptable and cost us a game, but they're more mature [than the 2004 squad]. We had no idea this was going to happen," said Amato, whose team plays tomorrow against visiting Eastern Kentucky.

Amato said he adopted a preseason camp mentality over the past 10 days. The emphasis, not surprisingly, was on discipline.

"We've got to correct [the mistakes]," he said. "I'm not going to make them think about them so much that they're going to go out there and be lily-white and get their brains beat in. I hope the adage is true that you make your biggest improvements from the first game to the second game."

Et cetera

Seven ACC teams are ranked, making the conference top-rated in the Sagarin Computer rankings. ... No. 17 Boston College, which plays host to No. 8 Florida State tomorrow, has beaten its past three ranked opponents and has outscored its first two opponents in 2005 by a 40-7 count in the first half.

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