CLEMSON -- When Clemson strongside linebacker Tramaine Billie finally decided to sit out all of last season, he envisioned building an impressive body of work this year to show NFL scouts.
Halfway through his redshirt senior campaign, Billie hopes to wipe the slate clean.
While he ranks third on the team in tackles, he has yet to revive the hard-hitting, heat-seeking reputation he carried before breaking his ankle in 2006.
Clemson coaches expected big dividends from regaining the ability to use Billie as a blitzer opposite the bandit end, but he has registered just two tackles for loss and has increasingly given way to freshman Scotty Cooper in passing situations.
"I'm glad to be part of the team again, but it's not going well for me right now," Billie said. "I feel like I've been hesitant and sitting back on my heels a little more than I usually do. I know what I have to do and where I need to be at, but I need to be more aggressive.
"I just really think I'm more worried about getting injured again. It's on my conscience and I want to get it out of there. But I've been timid."
Coach Tommy Bowden believes part of Billie's relative ineffectiveness can be blamed on the cracked bone in his left wrist, which has required Billie to wear a constrictive glove that stabilizes his thumb.
Without the flexibility to close his hand, Billie said he has trouble grabbing onto people to make tackles or shed blocks -- which would seem part of the reason he has been removed from the kickoff coverage team along with several other defensive starters.
"He's playing pretty good, although he hasn't jumped off the radar," Bowden said.
• LITTLE SAFETY NET -- Chris Russell, the second-string free safety, has quit the team.
Russell, a redshirt senior from Nashville, Tenn., played a combined 33 snaps against Furman and Louisiana-Monroe but had not seen action since.
After beginning his career at Colorado, he went to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before transferring to Clemson. He is on pace to graduate in December.
Russell's departure leaves coordinator Vic Koenning with even fewer options for the rare occasion he trusts inserting a backup in the secondary. The lone remaining scholarship reserves are freshman DeAndre McDaniel, converted redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Wade and redshirt freshman Darius Gaither.
Gaither, who has yet to play a defensive snap even in routs, is listed as the second-stringer in Clemson's latest depth chart.
• EXTRA POINTS -- Bowden said too much should not be read into the defense's No. 2 national ranking in pass defense. Given early leads, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech stayed on the ground and threw for 67 and 65 yards, respectively. "A lot of those things are deceiving," Bowden said. "But obviously being nationally ranked means you're doing a lot of things right." ... Junior receiver Rendrick Taylor (slightly torn hamstring) said he expects to play in next week's game against Central Michigan. Senior left guard Chris McDuffie (back spasms) and sophomore receiver Jacoby Ford (bruised sternum) were upgraded to increased participation Wednesday.