"I wish I could slip him into a uniform," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "Hopefully he'll spark us."
Clemson (2-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has lost three straight games and is in dire need of something positive, but the Tigers have been here before -- this is their fourth 2-3 start in the last seven years. The good news? In each of those seasons the Tigers have battled back to become bowl eligible.
For further inspiration, all Swinney has to do is point to one year ago, when the Tigers were 2-3 after a three-point loss at Maryland, then proceeded to win six straight games and the ACC's Atlantic Division title.
"Knowing the type of guy C.J. is, he'll probably have a couple of things to say (to us)," senior cornerback Marcus Gilchrist said. "He was a leader in this same type of situation last year, and in hard times family comes together."
This season Clemson has struggled to put a complete game together, surrendering big plays in an overtime loss at Auburn, then turning the ball over six times in a defeat to Miami. Last week, the Tigers held North Carolina to 255 total yards but were undermined by nine untimely penalties for 81 yards -- both highs under Swinney.
"We've got three gut-wrenching losses to good teams," Swinney said. "It's very frustrating because I know the talent and character of our team and how hard they've worked. I really want to see them taste success."
THURSDAY NOTES: Sophomore tight end Dwayne Allen leads Clemson with 18 receptions for 235 yards. If he finishes the season as the Tigers' top receiver, he would be the first tight end to lead the team in catches since Bennie Cunningham in 1974.
"Sophomore tight end Dwayne Allen leads Clemson with 18 receptions for 235 yards." (Getty Images)
* Clemson running back Andre Ellington needs 74 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for his career. If he reaches 1,000 by his seventh carry, he will break the Clemson record for fewest rushing attempts to reach 1,000 yards. The record holder is C.J. Spiller.
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Maryland at Clemson, Oct. 16 -- Despite being favored in most instances, Clemson has had precious little success against the Terrapins in recent years, losing three times. The series has been hotly contested as well, with five of the past six games decided by four points or less. Clemson can ill afford another defeat in conference play if it hopes to maintain any hope of defending its ACC Atlantic Division title and returning to the ACC championship game.
"Maryland is a 4-1 team playing with a lot of confidence and coming off an open date," Swinney said. "And they've kind of had our number recently."
KEYS TO THE GAME: Clemson is preparing for two styles of quarterback in Maryland's Jamarr Robinson and Danny O'Brien because they don't know who will receive the bulk of the snaps. Robinson has been injured and missed most of the past two games and O'Brien stepped in and guided the Terps to two victories.
The Tigers also are preparing for a ground assault, as Maryland is fond of establishing the run with Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett. Clemson's deep and talented defensive front, led by Da'Quan Bowers, will be pressured early and often to slow down the Terps' ground game. Coach Dabo Swinney's other primary concern is containing Maryland's special teams.
"They're pretty freakish in that category," Swinney said, referring to Tony Logan's NCAA-best 27.7 average per punt return.