Sports

Tigers' speedsters give offense a potent weapon

CLEMSON | Clemson features two of the fastest players in college football - receiver Jacoby Ford and tailback C.J. Spiller. Both are NCAA track All-Americans with Ford winning the NCAA indoor 60-meter title in 6.52 seconds. "Let me tell you this," Clemson track director Lawrence Johnson said. "Those guys are both talented sprinters and could pursue Olympic goals if they weren't all about football." With all that speed on the field, when the Tigers line up, it's more like, "Ready, set, go! instead of "Hut, hut, hike." Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has watched them both burn defenders the past four seasons "Speed's a hard thing to coach against," Swinney says with a smile. So far, it's been about impossible for Clemson's opponents. Ford and Spiller are the team's best playmakers. The defensive book on the Tigers seemed to read, bottle them up and take your chances with the rest of Clemson's offense. But the pair have hit for five of the team's seven touchdowns, all of them going for 43 yards or more. Ford was called "The fastest man in college football," on last week's ESPN broadcast. That's hard to argue, even for Swinney. "C.J. ain't ever beat [Ford], ain't ever come close to beating him. Jacoby beats him doing this," said Swinney, windmilling his arm. "'C'mon C.J.' But C.J. keeps chasing and one these days might catch him." The two seniors enjoy a friendly rivalry that's carried over throughout their sports. As freshmen, Clemson track coaches used to talk about Ford and Spiller pushing each other during light training runs to finish first. When Ford decided to return for a final football season, it wasn't long before Spiller joined him. Spiller started Clemson's season with a 100-yard kickoff return against Middle Tennessee. A quarter later, Ford struck for a 61-yard punt return TD. Even in last week's 30-27 loss at Georgia Tech, Ford couldn't let his friend lead Clemson's comeback all by himself. After Spiller cut into Tech's 24-0 lead with a 63-yard TD catch and run, Ford told him "I'm going to have to come back with another one."Ford later scored on a 77-yard touchdown as Clemson rallied for 27 straight points. "He's a big motivation to me and I'm a big motivation to him," Ford said. "Our friendship is more like brothers." Said Swinney, "It's two guys just blazing fast and take a lot of pride in it." Spiller and Ford both went to high school in Florida and competed against each other at state prep meets. Spiller knew about Ford's speed, but didn't know his dedication to football. They've never lined up and let loose for one amazing match race at practice. "The only time we raced is on the track," Ford said. "We're both on the same team and it's good to have a guy like that on the team that you know if you break out he can run with you or I break out, he'll be right by my side."

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