Clemson University

Spiller ready for second homecoming

C.J. Spiller grew up within an hour of the University of Florida campus, cheered for Florida State and chose former Seminoles star Warrick Dunn for his idol.

Little wonder, then, that most forecasters expected him to make Gainesville or perhaps Tallahassee his base for college football.

Instead, he picked Clemson, and his first game against his childhood favorite turned out to be forgettable from a personal standpoint.

He plans to change that impression Monday night.

The final score -- Clemson 27, Florida State 20 -- salved the wounds of his individual statistics last September. He got in for 12 plays, rushed twice for minus-four yards and returned one punt for minus-five. Only a 25-yard kickoff return got him on the plus side of the ledger.

Florida State fans could be forgiven for wondering about the hype for the Dunn want-to-be.

Eleven months and 10 games later, a different Spiller will take on the Seminoles again, and he cannot wait.

Five pounds heavier at 190, stronger, faster and obviously more experienced, he has changed from a freshman learning the ropes of college football to a magazine cover guy.

"Every game is big," Spiller said, repeating a thought from the coaches' book for cliches before dropping his guard. "But this one is special. This is the one I have been waiting on."

Increased expectations

Then, in the season's -- and his college career's -- third game, Spiller relied mostly on raw talent, and he found the Florida State defense formidable.

"I told my Mom that it was early in the season and I was a freshman and still adjusting to the system," he said.

By season's end, his production took on highlight-film quality and required no apology. He left fans holding their breath and wondering what he would do next.

He became the only Clemson player ever to have an 80-yard run and an 80-yard catch in the same season. He averaged 7.3 yards a carry, the most by a Clemson player with at least 600 yards rushing and the best by an ACC player since his idol, Dunn, averaged 7.48 in 1995.

His seven school records included the most touchdowns (six) on plays of 50 yards or longer in a season.

Honors rolled in and expectations increased.

He and junior James Davis form one of the best tandems in college football.

"There's more pressure to produce," Spiller said, "but I stay focused and study film. One of the biggest things, I have learned more about running (pass receiving) routes.

"This is a team that is more focused," he said. "Offense, defense, everywhere. We lost that last year. We were 7-1 and No. 10 (in the national polls), and the game at V-Tech (a 24-7 loss to Virginia Tech) shell-shocked us.

"We never got our focus back."

That should not be a problem Monday, at least initially.

"Death Valley will be rocking," Spiller said.