Davis a Year Older, Wiser

CLEMSON - If it seems like James Davis is light years removed from his freshman season, he is. And why wouldn't he be? As one of the top returning running backs in the ACC, he has every reason to be confident in himself both on and off the field.

James Davis has been through this song and dance before.

Now entering his sophomore year, the Tigers' starting running back, who was named the ACC's Rookie of the Year last season, has heard the whispers about freshman C.J. Spiller and his five-star talent.

He is also well aware that senior Reggie Merriweather will be in line to get his fair share of carries.

But he's not worried.

In fact, he's done nothing less than welcome the competition in an effort to better his own play for the upcoming season.

"I'm much more comfortable with where I am overall and where I am with the offense this year," Davis said. "I'm a little ahead of the other guys right now, so I'm just trying to work on practicing at a greater pace: running all the way to the endzone and doing those things that are going to help me break longer runs and score more touchdowns.

"But I want everybody to run the ball. You know me. I'm probably a guy that's going to carry the ball 15-20 carries a game. We'll run the ball at least 40 times a game so I think everybody will get their fair amount of carries."

If it seems like Davis is light years removed from his freshman season at Clemson, he is.

And why wouldn't he be? As one of the top returning running backs in the ACC, he has every reason to be confident in himself both on and off the field.

In fact, in just his second year in the program, he's become a leader of sorts with the running backs.

BIG BROTHER JAMES: In what has to be somewhat of an unusual role for such a young player, Davis says he's been a mentor to Spiller since his arrival on campus more than a month ago.

It could even be said that the two have a developed somewhat of a close friendship.

"C.J. is a great guy," Davis said. "I talk to him all the time. He comes over to the house to watch film. I kind of look at him like a little brother."

Spiller, who already looks like a seasoned veteran when it comes to his physique, has looked impressive through the first three days of practice.

Head coach Tommy Bowden is quick to point out his team has yet to put on full pads, but even so, Spiller's speed and ability to grasp the offense has other players on the team turning their heads.

"I'm not going to lie to you," Davis said. "We are going to run the ball this year. I don't know how many times but with the great offensive line we've got and the depth behind them, we should."
"The first five days is installation where we put the whole offense in," Bowden said. "The bigger story with him will be in the next week or so when we start going over stuff we have before and see how much retention he has."

Davis agreed with Bowden's wait and see approach, but still, Spiller has already left made a strong first impression on the Tigers' second-year back.

"He's learning the offense well and he's got a lot of stuff down. We know he can catch the ball and we know he can run," Davis said. "In a couple of days we'll find out just what he can do but from what I've seen on the field he's a quick learner. I think he's going to be alright because he seems to know a lot about the offense already."

RUN, RUN, RUN: Of course, one reason Davis, Spiller, Merriweather and even fourth string running back Demerick Chancellor can feel good about the upcoming season is the fact that this should be a run-oriented offense.

With all five starters back on the offensive line, and four of the top five players on the second team returning, the running lanes at Clemson should be as big as they've been since the late 1980s.

"I'm not going to lie to you," Davis said. "We are going to run the ball this year. I don't know how many times but with the great offensive line we've got and the depth behind them, we should.

"Plus we have a two back system. C.J. is going to be behind me. And Demerick is behind Reggie. Sometimes it's going to be me and C.J. in the game and there will be times when it's Reggie and C.J. in there. There are going to be plenty of carries to go around for everybody."

Davis also said it's important to remember who's calling the shots at the line- QB Will Proctor. He's not overlooking his starting quarterback.

"We all know that this offense is setup for Will," he said. "He is a great passer, like Charlie and people will see that this year. We may run the ball a little bit more but we know Will is a great player and we expect him to show that."

THE FUTURE: After injuring his left wrist (which is now completely healed) in the second half of the N.C. State game last year, Davis said he wanted to bulk up to try and prevent further injuries that can occur through the course of a given season.

At one point, he was up to almost 210 pounds- more than 10 pounds heavier than what he played at for most of his freshman year.

However now, he's somewhat changed his stance in an effort to create more big plays.

"I've lost weight," he said. "I'm at 205 now. Now, I'm more focused on breaking long runs. So if I'm at 200 at the start of the season, I think that would be good."

With those long runs, not to mention the outstanding vision Davis displayed in just his first year, many have speculated that he'll only stay in college for three years if given the opportunity.

The fact that he already picked up five votes to be named ACC Player of the Year during the ACC's Annual Operation Kickoff in July confirms the idea he's starting to emerge on the national radar.

But Davis has a message for the doubting Clemson fans.

"I know everybody thinks I'm going to leave early but I want to stay all four years to be honest," he said. "I want to graduate. I'm not going to lie. If I graduate I'll be the first in my family.

"They've got to say I'm the No. 1 running back coming out for the draft. They've got to say the first round and be the first back taken.

"But I don't want to ever think about leaving (Clemson). Graduating is very important to my mama and for my family."

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