Clemson University

Who's under center?

Clemson's James Davis runs in for the touchdown as Florida State's Myron Rolle tries to hold onto his jersey.
Clemson's James Davis runs in for the touchdown as Florida State's Myron Rolle tries to hold onto his jersey.

CLEMSON -- The manual for Clemson's new offensive gizmo might as well include a chapter on zoology.

The package of plays where one of its star tailbacks lines up in the shotgun formation at quarterback is called "Stallions."

When junior James Davis takes snaps, the series can either be labeled "Stallions" or "Buffalo" based on the tight-end alignment. Sophomore C.J. Spiller, perhaps as low man on the totem pole, inherited "Hogs" for when he is behind center.

So long as a Clemson stampede ensues after the snap, the jargon can remain as confusing as the schematic possibilities.

"We can get pretty creative with this," Spiller said.

As anticipated, the Tigers unveiled their new wrinkle during Monday's 24-18 triumph against Florida State.

Arkansas made the concept famous last season when, without serviceable quarterback play, it stuck standout tailback Darren McFadden in the shotgun, thereby also allowing his talented backup, Felix Jones, to remain in the game.

Seeking ways to utilize both Davis and Spiller -- not to mention keep both happy -- offensive coordinator Rob Spence spent extensive time studying Arkansas' film and implementing similar plays.

The public debut of "Stallions" supplied an energy boost but modest results.

Clemson gave Davis and Spiller two snaps apiece, although more were planned before Spiller began struggling with cramps at halftime.

During both of Davis' turns, he faked a handoff to the sweeping Spiller and took off, gaining 9 and 6 yards -- the latter called back because of holding.

Spiller, running the read-option play, handed off to Davis for a 1-yard gain the first time, then was penalized for delay of game when the play clock expired before the snap.

"I really loved it," Davis said. "I started smiling when the crowd started yelling and everything.

"Florida State, when they saw us go into that, they were shocked. They were moving everywhere. They were jumping all around and didn't know what was going on."

Kind of like what the Tigers saw on film from its next opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, which got its fill of Arkansas' "WildHog" set in a 44-10 defeat last October.

McFadden threw the first touchdown of his career out of it, while he and Jones combined for 270 rushing yards on 27 carries out of all its formations.

Unlike Arkansas, Clemson uses the set to complement its quarterback play, not mask it, and leaves Cullen Harper in the game by pushing him out to receiver, allowing for a switch to a conventional formation if the tailbacks see their play will not work.

And while Georgia Tech and Tennessee debuted basic shotgun plays for their tailback last weekend, the Tigers' dynamic differs because of the complexity of the X's and O's.

For example, the motions during Clemson's four plays hinted at the threat of sweeps, end-arounds and even room to potentially involve receivers Jacoby Ford or Rendrick Taylor as ball-carriers.

So while Spence expects some degree of copycatting around the country, he believes the Tigers will be able to exploit the package to a much greater degree.

"It takes so much time and coaching to put these things in," Spence said. "You have to be very, very committed to make this work."

Suffice it to say, though, that both Davis and Spiller are well aware of McFadden's passing exploits (8-of-10 career passes for four touchdowns, including one last week).

But that's another animal.

"Even though you know what's coming ... it is a little more complex than (the quarterback) is running the ball," coach Tommy Bowden said. "Obviously it's 100 percent run, but where you're running, there's some doubt and indecision.

"Then if you have somebody who can throw it, it helps you a little bit. But if we throw it, we aren't going to throw it very far."


• When: 1 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

• TV: None

• Tickets: Available at 1-800-CLEMSON