When No. 5 Clemson runs the first-team offense on to the field on Sept. 2 against Kent State, C.J. Fuller will trot out as the starting running back.
Fuller’s position coach and Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator said on Thursday Fuller was the most consistent of the three players vying for the job and thus earned the right to get the first carry for the 2017 season. Fuller beat out sophomore Tavien Feaster and junior Adam Choice.
“All three of those guys are ready to play and realistically anyone of them can go out there and be the starter,” Elliott said following practice. “But C.J. was the most consistent one throughout the course of camp and I felt like he did lay his claim as being the first guy to run out.”
Head coach Dabo Swinney said he is really proud of Fuller and some of that goes back to last year when he started to really emerge with confidence, how he practiced and just his commitment to being a good player.
“He is a very, very good football player,” Swinney said. “He is very good in the passing game. He is good with the protections. He is smart. He is instinctive. He is an excellent runner. He is a load to tackle and he is fast.
“He made a couple of the biggest plays of the season last year, the (kick return) in the championship game and then the play against Ohio State. Just massive plays in big moments so his confidence is really high so he has earned that to this point and those other guys are right there.”
Last year Fuller rushed for 211 yards on 47 carries and scored one touchdown. He also caught two touchdown passes, both over the shoulder grabs in the end zone against South Carolina and Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
It looked like Feaster might catch Fuller in camp, but Elliott said Feaster dropped back a bit in the last few days, which made his choice a lot easier.
“Choice missed a little bit of time and then Feaster had an opportunity to kind of solidify that and had some good practices, but then he still was not consistent as I was hoping he was going to be down the stretch,” the Clemson coach said. “So he kind of made that decision a little bit easier for me, but at the same time he is deserving of playing.
“All three of those guys will play. It is a different situation than last year. I don’t see as much separation as Wayne (Gallman) may have had on those guys in the past.”
However, Elliott said this year’s battle is very similar to the one Gallman had with Choice and C.J. Davidson in 2014. Gallman took over the position the last seven games of the season after Choice was injured at Boston College and he never let it go.
“When Wayne first got his opportunity, he had a very, very short leash and Choice was right on his heels and throughout the course of practice and in the games, he determined that in terms of being that guy that got the majority of the reps, so I anticipate that hopefully all these guys will get an opportunity,” Elliott said. “But if one wants to become the alpha dog and say that he wants to be the guy that gets the majority of the snaps … that is going to be up to him.”
Elliott did indicate he will ride the guy with the hot hand in a game no matter who the starter is.
“If one of them gets the hot hand, we want to lean on him, but I think all three of those older guys are deserving of playing in that first game,” he said. “Again, it is going to depend on how hot they are when they get their opportunities.
“It is tough when you are rotating guys because like choice for example, he is a rhythm guy. He has to play a couple of snaps to get his rhythm and sometimes it is tough just coming off the bench. But, I think all three of those guys deserve to play and we will use them all as the course of the game goes.”