CLEMSON -- Kevin Steele doesn't watch much of the Clemson offense. On game days, the Tigers' defensive coordinator is typically using a dry-erase board on the sideline to teach crash-course lessons when the offense is on the field. During practice, Steele's top defenders are usually working against a scout team.
But Steele's attention was captured by a recent offensive highlight. Running back Mike Bellamy scored on a 31-yard touchdown run at Virginia Tech, a play in which Bellamy faked Jayron Hosley so badly the Tech cornerback fell to the ground. As Steele watched, he felt empathy for a fellow defensive coordinator, Virginia Tech's Bud Foster.
"I saw the replay of the run on television and felt for Foster," Steele said. "I saw Bellamy run that run and I thought 'I wonder what Bud is thinking right now?' They had a guy there unblocked and (Bellamy) just went swoosh."
Steele and Clemson fans might be witnessing the fastest Clemson team in program history. There are myriad ways to explain No. 8 Clemson's improbable 6-0 start to the season.
But perhaps the key agent of change is speed.
Virginia Tech coaches said Clemson was the fastest team they faced since the great Miami teams of the early 2000s that featured NFL stars in receiver Andre Johnson and running back Willis McGahee. Miami was perhaps the fastest college team of the last decade.
Defenders like Tech's Hosley can attest to the elite speed. Bellamy, receiver Sammy Watkins and Joe Craig have all been timed under 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash and could be three of the top 10 fastest players to ever play at Clemson.
The speed does not end there.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney notes defensive back Martin Jenkins was a 100-meter state champion in Georgia, like Watkins and Bellamy were in Florida. Swinney thinks freshman receiver Martavis Bryant's top-end speed might be as good as any player on the team.
"Our backs our fast, our tight ends are fast, our receivers can fly and our quarterback runs pretty well," Swinney said. "Our chemistry is great, our leadership is great, but we have some dimensions on this team that we didn't have last year. It's night and day compared to last year.
"We are explosive, and if you look at our big plays, it backs that up."
Clemson had 35 plays of 20 yards or longer all of last season and already has 27 this season.
The speed is night and day to this spring, when offensive coordinator Chad Morris was shocked by the lack of speed the roster possessed -- before the arrival of Bellamy, Watkins and Bryant.
"I was faster in the spring," Morris said. "The one thing you better have in this offense is speed if you want to get guys sideline to sideline and end zone to end zone."
The speed has stretched defensive zones and created more space for players like Allen, who has four touchdowns this season after recording just one last year.
"I've said a few times if anybody is going to get us, they better get us this year," Swinney said, "because when some of these guys grow up, we have a chance to be pretty good."
Fastest Clemson players in program history:
Name Seconds (40-yard dash)
James Trapp 4.21
Jerry Butler 4.27
Jacoby Ford 4.28
*Mike Bellamy 4.28
Tye Hill 4.31
*Joe Craig 4.31
C.J. Spiller 4.37
*Sammy Watkins 4.37
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.