For the first time since the 2014 season, Clemson will enter spring practice, which begins on Wednesday, with a question mark at the running back position.
Over the last two years, Wayne Gallman has rushed for 2,660 yards and 30 touchdowns, while eclipsing the century mark a school-record 17 times. Overall, Gallman’s 3,429 career yards ranks fifth all-time in Clemson history, while his 34 rushing touchdowns rank third all-time.
So whoever replaces the two-time All-ACC tailback, they will have big shoes to fill. The Tigers return former five-star running back Tavien Feaster, C.J. Fuller and Adam Choice. Neither of the three has started a game at Clemson, and as co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott has put it, it will be a wide open competition.
When looking at pure ability, it would seem as if Feaster has the inside track at the job, but do not count out a player like Fuller. He has something inside him that has allowed him to move up the depth chart when some thought he would never play a meaningful down at Clemson.
Obviously, that scrutiny has motivated Fuller to prove them wrong. The rising redshirt junior finished the 2016 season as the No. 2 running back, rushing for 211 yards on 47 carries. He also caught seven passes for 62 yards and scored two touchdowns, both on wheel routes. The first came against the Gamecocks in the regular-season finale, and the other was a great over the shoulder catch against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Fuller’s ability to pass block, especially when Gallman got dinged up a couple of times last season, played a big role on why he was the No. 2 guy at the end of the season. But none of that means he will be the starter.
Fester moved up the depth chart before the end of the season, too, as the coaches, especially Elliott, began to have more and more confidence in the freshman tailback. Though he is the most explosive of the three, Feaster has more to learn as he was not asked to do as much in high school. However, he improved as the season went along and he got more opportunities as a result.
Feaster finished third on the team with 221 rushing yards, while averaging 6.0 yards per carry. He scored two touchdowns, including a 45-yard touchdown run at Boston College.
As a freshman, Choice put himself in position to start before tearing his knee at Boston College in Game 7 of the 2014 season. It has been a long road back for the Thomasville, Ga., native as he missed the next 21 games, including all of 2015.
And though he returned in 2016, he did not seem as if he was the same runner that he was before.
He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and rushed for 158 yards. He also caught four passes for 38 more yards. After playing in each of the first seven games, Choice fell on the depth chart and played in just four games the rest of the season, all in mop up duty.
—Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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