Though C.J. Fuller is listed as the starting running back on Clemson’s summer depth chart, it does not mean Fuller will be the starter when the defending national champions open the 2017 season on Sept. 2 against Kent State.
Fuller ended spring drills two months ago in an intense battle with Adam Choice and Tavien Feaster, who are listed No. 2 and No. 3 on the depth chart.
“I thought it was very competitive,” Clemson running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “It was good to see some guys make plays … I thought the backs at times ran hard … I’m walking away in a good mood.”
Elliott will be even in a better mood when freshman Travis Etienne gets on campus later this month. Etienne is a 4-star running back from Louisiana who chose Clemson over LSU the day before national signing day back in February.
Etienne only adds to a running back core that brings plenty of talent, speed and strength to a position that has to replace Wayne Gallman, one of the more productive players ever at running back in Clemson history.
However, Fuller did his part in the spring. The rising junior completed the spring with 51 rushing yards in the spring game, the most of any running back in the game. He also caught one pass for nine yards.
“I feel like I did pretty good and I feel like the other backs, Feaster and Choice, also made big steps,” Fuller said afterwards.
Fuller has a leg up in the competition over Choice and Feaster due to his pass blocking ability. It’s why he played a lot as a reserve running back at the end of last season. Elliott can trust him, which is not only important from his position standpoint, but from a play-calling standpoint as well.
“Pass protection is big and very important in this offense,” Fuller said. “Just being able to recognize who’s coming, sorting it out and picking it up, it means a lot. So me being there and picking those up really benefits the offense.”
It’s the difference between a three-yard loss and a 30-yard gain.
“This is a very good competition,” Fuller said. “All three of us are working to be that guy. So you can’t slack off; every day you can’t slack off. You’ve gotta come out, finish your runs and block. You’ve gotta do everything the coaches ask so hopefully you can be that guy.”
The goal for Fuller the rest of the summer is to “just train, continue to learn the playbook, learn the offense inside and out and do whatever it takes to get back to the National Championship.”