By Heath Bradley.
In this installment of the post spring breakdowns of the Tigers we will focus on the running backs. With the departure of Mike Bellamy the depth chart is already changing from the spring.
Depth Chart- 1st Team: Andre Ellington, 2nd Team: D.J. Howard
What We Know- Andre Ellington deciding to return for his senior season is like Dabo Swinney signing a 10 star running back prospect. Ellington does so much for the Clemson offense and would be hard to replace. We all have seen what he can do with the ball in his hand (averaging 5.8 yards per carry over his career), but it is what he does in pass protection that makes him so valuable. This was seen last year at Georgia Tech when the Tigers young running backs struggled in pass protection for Tajh Boyd. Ellington has appeared in 36 games as a Tiger and has rushed for 2,355 yards and scored 25 touchdowns, both good enough for 10th place in the Clemson record books. In 2011 he was named second-team ALL-ACC after gaining 1,418 all-purpose yards and scoring 11 touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore D.J. Howard is currently listed at 2nd Team on the depth chart. Howard appeared in 12 games, starting two as a redshirt freshman in 2011. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry on 41 rushes on the season. His best game came against #19 Auburn when he had a team high 86 yards rushing on only nine carries against a school in which he ultimately chose Clemson over.
What We Expect- Andre Ellington came back to Clemson for a reason and we at TheClemsonInsider.com expect him to show the nation what he is made of in 2012. If Ellington can stay 100% healthy throughout the entire season expect a big year from #23. Ellington worked hard in the spring to become a better receiver out of the backfield, the part of his game that needed the most improvement. The second team running back position will be D.J. Howard. Howard was a viable backup to Ellington in 2011 and his improvement for 2012 will play a key role in the run game with the dismissal of Mike Bellamy. Expect to also see Rod McDowell get carries early in the season as a change of pace from D.J. Howard. McDowell made the most of his few carries in 2011, including scoring a touchdown in the Discover Orange Bowl. Zac Brooks will also become more of a factor with the departure of Bellamy. Brooks will be used in some formations that Dwayne Allen ran last season.