Healthy again, Miami’s Spence eager for Clemson

Miami linebacker Sean Spence’s first two seasons with the Hurricanes were probably best remembered by two plays.

One of them was throwing then-Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to the ground with ease, a highlight from Spence’s freshman season that got replayed around Miami for months.

The other play is one Spence can’t forget, no matter how hard he tries.

It came in the Clemson-Miami game a year ago, when _ playing with a sprained knee, essentially on one leg _ Spence had to try to cover Tigers speedster C.J. Spiller on a pass play.

Spiller ran away from Spence like he was standing still for an easy touchdown, and Clemson went on to dash the Hurricanes’ Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes with a 40-37 overtime win.

That play has bothered Spence for 11 months.

This weekend, when No. 16 Miami (2-1) opens ACC play at Clemson (2-1), he’ll have a long-awaited chance to make amends.

“He’s special,” Miami linebackers coach Micheal Barrow said. “Not only is he Peyton Manning-smart, but he also has the instincts to match, which is very rare for a guy to be both super-smart and instinctive. Most guys are either-or. Not him. He has the ability, he’s a fast learner. We’ve just expected big things from him.”

Spence tried to deliver those big things in last October’s Clemson-Miami game.

He got hurt during Miami’s first defensive series, and although he was considerably slowed, Spence insisted he could fight through the pain. He was the right outside linebacker on the Spiller play, when Clemson showed play-action and sent their star running back toward the left sideline.

When Clemson’s Kyle Parker threw the ball, Spence and Spiller were both at the Miami 45-yard line. By the time, Spiller caught it, he was six yards ahead of Spence. By the time he reached the end zone, he was 12 yards clear of the hobbled linebacker.

“I was hurt,” Spence said. “I was just trying to do whatever I could to help my team win. But I ended up, in the end, hurting them. The first drive, I kind of tweaked my knee. I tried to fight through it, but I couldn’t.”

That led to another memorable Spence moment. When Miami’s defense was heading back onto the field, Spence tried dragging himself out there to join the huddle.

Someone had to drag him _ literally _ back to the Miami sideline. He got grabbed by the jersey, just below the base of his helmet, before grudgingly acknowledging the obvious: He simply couldn’t keep going that night.

“I wanted to be out there,” Spence said. “That’s about it.”

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