CLEMSON -- Billy Napier sounded like Jack Leggett's hitting coach Tuesday, saying Clemson has become something of a small-ball, gap-hitting team after enjoying home run power last fall.
Clemson's offensive coordinator was alluding to the loss of the world-class speed provided by Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller. The duo combined for 17 touchdowns of 30 yards or more last season. Through three games this season, Clemson has two scoring strikes of 30 or more yards, and both came in the opener against North Texas.
After losing Ford -- the fastest player at the NFL combine -- and the ultra-quick Spiller, it is evident there will be fewer bailouts, fewer big plays and less margin for error for Clemson.
"We are better as a team, offensively, than we were last year, but we don't have (Spiller and Ford)," Napier said. "We have got to be better fundamentally, we've got to be better effort-wise."
Clemson featured screens and short passes at Auburn.
Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen and running backs Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington accounted for 12 of Kyle Parker's 20 completions. Parker attempted only two passes traveling more than 20 yards down field.
Missing on Saturday was the blazing speed of Ford and Spiller, who often tested Parker's long-range throwing ability.
In Clemson's overtime win at Miami last season, Parker hit Spiller deep on a wheel route for a 56-yard TD. At Georgia Tech, Parker connected with Ford on a deep post for a 77-yard score.
"One thing I probably regret Saturday is not taking a couple more shots (downfield)," Napier said. "But the way I look at it, if we don't have that speed that can create those huge (plays) like we had last year, that's where we have got to coach them better. We have to make up for that margin of error. … This is who we've got. That's what we have to do."
Napier said Ellington has some home-run pop in the running game, but whether a wide receiver emerges who can stretch the field is to be determined.
Parker thinks the deep pass can be opened up as defenses contend with what appears to be a more physical and effective Clemson running game.
While the offense lacked big plays and efficiency in the third quarter at Auburn, it was the Clemson defense giving up the home runs. Cam Newton's 78-touchdown pass in the third quarter was longer than any scoring play the Clemson defense allowed last fall.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele noted Clemson allowed 164 yards in the first, second, fourth quarters and overtime. But Clemson allowed 260 yards in the third quarter.
"Just take 14 snaps out of the tape, and I realize you can't do that … in those 14 or 15 plays, you've got three big plays that don't normally happen and then you've got a couple of runs where we lost (contain) on the outside," Steele said. "It was probably pressing too much, trying to finish it off.
"We just got out of sync."
Too much Allen?
Clemson tight end Allen tied with a team-high 86 snaps at Auburn, telling of Clemson's lack of depth at the position.
"I don't think it's feasible for us to expect him to do that over the course of a season," Napier said, "especially since we're about to play 10 (games) in a row."
Napier said the staff still plans to redshirt freshman tight end Victor Beasley.
DeAndre McDaniel has a right wrist strain, which he says is not serious. … Parker said Saturday was the most pain he has experienced while playing quarterback but stayed on the field because nothing felt "broken or punctured." Despite the experience of being speared in the back, Parker says he has not ruled out a future in football. …While the team has made strides regarding mental toughness, Napier felt the offense might have become complacent in the third quarter at Auburn after building a two-touchdown lead.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).