Clemson's Davis, top ACC rusher, probable vs. Hokies

Updated: October 24, 2006, 8:58 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's latest injury might be the toughest one for the Tigers to overcome.

Atlantic Coast Conference leading rusher James Davis could miss Thursday night's game at Virginia Tech with a shoulder injury, though coach Tommy Bowden was encouraged by what he saw from the running back in practice Tuesday.

After practice, Bowden said Davis was probable for Virginia Tech. Earlier in the day he said Davis was "50-50" to play. Davis hurt his shoulder in the 10th-ranked Tigers' 31-7 victory over Georgia Tech last Saturday.

There was already little time to celebrate the win over the Yellow Jackets, which pushed Clemson (7-1, 4-1 ACC) into the top 10 for the first time in six years. But the Tigers, who have had numerous key players go down this season, were now faced with the prospect of being without their top playmaker.

Davis was hurt in the first half but played into the fourth quarter and finished with a career-high 216 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, Davis characterized the injury as a stinger and said it would not keep him from playing Virginia Tech.

Bowden wasn't so sure Tuesday.

Davis did not take much contact Monday and with a short week to prepare, Bowden wasn't sure he would rush Davis and risk losing the sophomore for even more games.

"I'd say, whatever 50-50 is is what he'd be rated after yesterday's practice," Bowden said before Tuesday's practice seemed to change his mind. "It'd probably be a game day decision whether he's going to play or not."

Davis leads the ACC with 961 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Atlanta prep star shredded his hometown school last Saturday night.

Bowden said the emotion of last week's game kept Davis going. After the game, the shoulder tightened up and put Davis' status in doubt.

If the Tigers were playing Saturday, Bowden would not be so concerned about Davis this early in the week.

Clemson is scheduled to leave for Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

"I base that opinion of 50-50 on yesterday's performance," Bowden said. "In shoulder pads, can he take contact? If he can't take contact in the only day of pads before the game, there's major concern because of turnovers."

If Davis can't go, Clemson would start C.J. Spiller. The freshman had 116 yards rushing against Georgia Tech, scoring on a 50-yard run and a dazzling 50-yard catch and run when he let two defenders slide by before motoring down the sideline.

Behind Spiller is senior Reggie Merriweather, who had missed three games and only played briefly against Georgia Tech because of an ankle injury.

Clemson's offense was already set to face the Hokies without left guard Roman Fry, one of its steadiest and most talented blockers. Fry tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the Tigers' first series. The injury has ended his college career and broken up the continuity of Clemson's offensive line, which had started the same five players each game so far this season.

The Tigers could get a boost Thursday night from receiver Chansi Stuckey, who Bowden said has a chance to play. Stuckey was the ACC's reception leader a year ago but has missed the past three games with a broken foot.

"I think he's close to 100 percent," he said. "Maybe he does my job and witholds information at times. ... He looked good yesterday."

On defense, Clemson has also lost significant players in linebackers Anthony Waters and Tramaine Billie. Both were expected to start this season. Waters gave up a chance at the NFL draft last spring to play a final season with the Tigers.

So far, Clemson has dealt with each injury and barely missed a beat. Against Georgia Tech, junior Chris McDuffie stepped in for Fry and the team still rushed for 321 yards.

If Davis can't play, Bowden has a good feeling about those who will.

"That's one thing a little more unique about this team," Bowden said. "It has suffered some significant injuries and still, somehow, has recovered, absorbed those and continued on."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press