CLEMSON -- The latest directive from Clemson offensive headquarters: Let 'er rip.
As defenses have become more aggressive in taking away Clemson's running game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier said it is time the Tigers open up the passing game.
Clemson (3-3, 1-2 ACC) must increase its scoring Saturday against Georgia Tech (5-2, 3-1), with the Yellow Jackets averaging 31 points per game. Clemson's offense is averaging 18 points during the last three games.
"We gotta cut it loose," Napier said. "We are going to try to be balanced. We are going to attack people.
"The main thing I'm seeing across the board is we have to throw and catch the football better … I think we called 44 runs in a game (vs. Maryland) where the run wasn't great, so that tells you a little bit about what we think."
Swinney was asked Tuesday if defenses respect the Clemson passing game.
"We need to open it up more," Swinney said. "We are good enough. We can do it. We'll be fine. "Maryland was obviously over-committed to (stopping the run). They did a good job of it. The frustrating thing is we had six drops, including two touchdowns."
To help open up the passing game is the return of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and quarterback Kyle Parker's return to health.
Despite the one-on-one matchups available in the passing game as opponents have crowded the line of scrimmage, Parker has completed just 46 percent of his passes and averaged 5.2 yards per pass attempt the last three weeks.
Part of it was related to Parker's injury.
Parker said Tuesday his throwing was affected by the rib/back bruising he sustained against Auburn. He said he is nearing complete health and has been more accurate in recent practices. Napier said Parker appeared to be throwing the ball much better in pregame warmups against Maryland.
Also helping the offense is Hopkins' return to practice.
Napier said Parker looked like his "puppy had died" when Hopkins was taken off the field with an injury last week. Hopkins, though a freshman, has perhaps become Parker's most trusted target, leading receivers in catches (13).
Hopkins is the one receiver Parker has trusted downfield in one-on-one matchups.
"We are just on the same page," said Parker of Hopkins and himself. "(Hopkins) just jumped in there against Miami and did the same thing against North Carolina, and all through practice we are making some connections. Then all of a sudden he just disappears and it kind of sucks."
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson summed up Clemson's offensive woes when talking to reporters this week.
"I think (Andre) Ellington is a really good player who took (C.J.) Spiller's place," Johnson said. "Where they probably have not replaced their production at this point is at wide receiver, but they have talented guys. It is just a matter of time before they step up and play like a guy with a lot of experience. They may be the most talented team in the league; they have good players."
Napier said the time for making excuses is over.
"With Kyle being healthy now," Napier said, "we got the receiver lineup, we got (Hopkins) back this week, there's going to be more continuity moving forward."
And moving forward, Clemson hopes a passing game can emerge and thaw a frozen offense.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).
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