CLEMSON -- After boarding the team bus following Saturday's loss to North Carolina, Clemson offensive tackle Landon Walker reached for his mobile device. Walker, a self-described optimist, immediately began scanning schedules and standings, researching who had to lose for Clemson to make a run at a second straight ACC Atlantic Division title.
But according to Walker, looking ahead and focusing on something other than the opponent of the week has been an issue for Clemson during its 2-3 start.
"I looked and saw what we had to do, but that's something as a team we shouldn't be worried about," Walker said, "because we need to figure out how to win a game first."
After Clemson's 2-3 start last season, Walker said the team excelled at focusing on the game at hand and not worrying about what was on the horizon.
"We really didn't focus on winning the division," Walker said. "We didn't even consider it. When we played Miami, we played Miami. That was the whole focus."
Veterans like Michael Palmer and Thomas Austin helped sharpen the focus and have exited, leaving a leadership void. Walker said the offense's leaders are him, Dalton Freeman and Chris Hairston.
"Whether it be leadership, whether it be putting people in the right positions," Walker said, "we need to figure it out quick."
Hopkins earns new titles
Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was named the ACC's rookie of the week on Monday and might have earned another significant designation: No. 1 punt returner.
Clemson special teams coach Andre Powell said Hopkins will earn more return work as the team tries to keep returner/corner Marcus Gilchrist fresh.
"In fairness to the team we need to reduce Gilchrist's role," Powell said. "Gilchrist is playing a minimum of 60 snaps a game."
Gilchrist is second in the ACC in punt return average (13.0 yards per return), trailing only Maryland's Tony Logan (27.7 ypr, two touchdowns). Hopkins displayed impressive quickness on his 31-yard punt return Saturday, setting up Clemson's first touchdown at North Carolina.
How much more for Ellington?
Berkeley High product Andre Ellington will begin to take more of the rushing workload against Maryland, as Ellington has outperformed Jamie Harper by averaging 6.6 yards per carry and sitting at third in the ACC in rushing (435 yards).
But how much Ellington's role will increase is to be determined. C.J. Spiller reached 25 carries in a game just once last season (26 carries versus TCU), and Powell is skeptical the 5-10, 190-pound Ellington can handle a workhorse load.
"If he starts getting 25 carries, I'm not sure his 23rd, 24th and 25th carries will be as good as Jamie's 12th or 13th carry," Powell said.
Clemson passed nearly twice as much as it ran in the first half of the North Carolina loss, as Powell said the Tigers were trying to get away from tendencies they had noticed in self-scouting.
"We are trying to be more balanced," Powell said. "It's no big secret our tight ends and running backs have been the bulk of our offense."
Georgia Tech kickoff announced
Clemson's football game against Georgia Tech Oct. 23 at Memorial Stadium will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised regionally on ABC.
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