Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer, Clemson's C.J. Spiller have divergent styles, similar stardom

Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer and Clemson's C.J. Spiller share few similarities as running backs. The 235-pound Dwyer is about power and downhill quickness; Spiller's game is sprinter's speed and elusiveness. Dwyer gets the ball almost exclusively on a handoff in the Yellow Jackets' triple-option attack; the 195-pound Spiller is one of the nation's most versatile threats: running, receiving, returning kicks and punts, and even throwing the ball. Total opposites? Not quite. They are strikingly similar in they befuddle defenses and bedazzle fans. That's something folks are sure to see Saturday night, when the No. 12-ranked Yellow Jackets (10-2) and No. 25 Clemson Tigers (8-4) meet in the ACC Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium, a rematch of a thrilling regular-season game Tech won 30-27 on Sept. 10 in Atlanta. We offer this breakdown of the pair:

Award winners

Last season, Dwyer, a junior from Marietta, Ga., rolled up 1,395 yards and 12 touchdowns in being named the ACC's offensive player of the year and overall player of the year. This season, he was a first-team All-ACC pick with near identical numbers, 1,236 yards and 12 scores.

Spiller, a senior from Union County High in Lake Butler who grew up a Florida State fan then spurned it and Florida, claimed that double ACC honor this season. He has a league-record 2,207 all-purpose yards this season, averaging 9.2 yards. Though he was only named to the All-ACC second team as a running back this season, he is a finalist for the Doak Walker for the nation's top running back — a first for a Clemson player — and has generated some Heisman Trophy hype. He did make the ACC first team as a return specialist.

"He's like a ticking bomb. Tick, tick, tick," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said of Spiller. "And all of a sudden, it goes off."

Record watch, Part I

Dwyer has forced school officials to edit their record book. Extensively.

Here's just a sampling: No. 1 in 100-yard games in a season with nine in 2008, No. 2 in career rushing touchdowns with 33, No. 2 in career touchdowns with 34, and No. 3 in consecutive games with 100 yards rushing with four, in both 2008 and 2009.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he likes watching Dwyer play "against other people."

"He's just a tough, hard-nosed, downhill-type of runner," Swinney said. "He gets tough yards. He's perfect for their system.

"He's niftier than you may think. He's a big guy. He's got a lot of weight that he carries well. He's very durable."

Record watch, Part II

Spiller has kept the Clemson statisticians working overtime, too. He already has set 26 school records, including all-purpose yards (7,115), all-purpose yards in a game (312 against FSU this season) and touchdowns of at least 50 yards in a season (nine this year).

But their need for ink has, well, spilled over to their counterparts at the NCAA. He set an NCAA record for career kickoff returns for touchdowns when he went 88 yards with the opening kick last weekend against South Carolina — his seventh. He also has the NCAA record for kicks returned (including punts) for a touchdown with eight.

"(Spiller) can go the distance any time he touches the ball," Tech coach Paul Johnson has said.

Bouncing back

Spiller and Dwyer are both coming off subpar performances, and it's no coincidence their teams lost.

Georgia Tech's rally against Georgia fell short, losing 30-24; Dwyer had just 33 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.

Meanwhile, Clemson lost to South Carolina 34-17 as Spiller, a bit under the weather, was held to 141 total yards — or a mere 53 after the opening kickoff: 18 on nine carries, 19 on three catches, 2 on a punt return and 14 on a second kickoff return.

"We've already talked and are talking to see how each other is doing," Dwyer said of Spiller. "And we're just excited to play and have a rematch and see what happens this time."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

ACC title game

Teams: Georgia Tech (Coastal Division winner) vs. Clemson (Atlantic Division winner)

When/where: 8 p.m. Saturday, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

TV: ESPN

Tickets: Prices range from $25-$125

Ancillary events: Friday — ACC Coaches and Awards Luncheon, noon, Tampa Convention Center; for ticket information, call (813) 218-3814. ACC Night of Legends, 7 p.m., Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay; for ticket information, call (813) 218-3814. Toast to the Atlantic Coast, 7 p.m., Channelside; admission free. Saturday — FanFest, 5 p.m., Raymond James Stadium Lot 6D; admission free to all game-ticket holders.

Information: Go to theroadtotampabay.com.

Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer, Clemson's C.J. Spiller have divergent styles, similar stardom 12/02/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 9:58pm]

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