By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
It did not take too long to understand why Andre Ellington was Dabo Swinney’s biggest recruiting gem in 2012.
Ellington, who decided to return for his senior season at Clemson, showed his worth in coming back for one last year with a 228-yard performance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic to open the 2012 season in the Georgia Dome. His 228 yards were part of a 320-yard rushing effort by the Clemson offense as the Tigers wore down No. 25 Auburn, 26-19.
“There’s no doubt in my mind who was the best player underneath this roof tonight,” Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said afterwards. “Without a doubt it was Andre Ellington. He was on a mission. He was relentless.”
Ellington stayed relentless throughout the season. He finished the year with 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns. Wanting to come back to prove he can stay healthy, Ellington played and started in all 13 games for Clemson and played a big role in an offense that finished ninth nationally in total offense (512.7) and sixth in points per game (42.3).
“He is a man now,” Swinney said. “He came here as a young boy, but he is now a man. He needed to mature individually. It has been fun to watch him grow as a leader because I don’t think that was something that came natural to him. I don’t think that was something that he really embraced early in his career.
“To see where he is now, he is dialed in and he is focused.”
For the second straight year, Ellington rushed for more than 1,000 yards and for the second straight year he earned All-ACC First-Team honors. He finished his career as only the third back in Clemson history to have a pair of 1,000 yard seasons, and his 3,436 rushing yards rank fourth all-time in Clemson history. The Moncks Corner, S.C. native, who scored 33 career touchdowns, was second in the ACC in rushing yards per game and had a team high 1,491 all-purpose yards.
Though he put up so many impressive numbers, Ellington’s biggest attribute to the offense came in pass protection, where he is considered one of the best pass blocking running backs in college football.
“He is a savvy veteran. He brings so much leadership,” running backs coach Tony Elliott said before the season. “He is not a vocal leader, but he leads by example. He is so calm, and he knows what is going on, and he helps Tajh (Boyd) calm down in the pocket.
“He studies the offense and he studies football. It’s important to him. He has the knowledge aspect of it, but he is also a great player on top of that.”
A player who is sure to be picked up in the 2013 NFL Draft this April, where he is listed as a late second to third-round pick.
“He had some big games,” Swinney said. “Just to be able to consistently be there and be with the team is something I know that is important to him.
“I’m really proud of him.”
Ellington is in Boca Raton, Fla., training for the 2013 NFL Draft. He also said he is going to play in the upcoming Senior Bowl (Jan. 26).