By Will Vandervort.
There is no time like the present.
If Dabo Swinney and his staff were planning to redshirt running back Adam Choice, those plans changed when running back Zac Brooks went down with a torn ligament in his right foot on Monday.
The plan now for 16th-ranked Clemson is to get Choice ready as quickly as it can because it might need the freshman when it heads to Athens, Ga., next Saturday to play No. 12 Georgia.
“We have to get him ready. We are going to go with the green light on him,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Swinney announced following Thursday’s practice that Choice will not redshirt because with Brooks down, and Tyshon Dye already hampered with an Achilles Heel that could sideline him for the rest of the year, it left the Tigers with only three healthy backs—D.J. Howard, C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman—at their disposal.
“You are sitting there with D.J., C.J. and Gallman, who we really like, but it is hard to make it through a season with three backs. Tyshon, we hope to get him back at some point, but when he does come back he is going to have to get himself going. The other is Choice, who has had a great camp.”
Choice was a top 10 running back coming out of high school from Thomasville, Ga. At Thomas County Central, he set the school’s all-time rushing record with 5,095 yards.
“He is probably one of the best natural runners that we have signed here in a long time. He has great vision, is low to the ground and physically is ready,” Swinney said. “Mentally, we have to still grow him up some, but now that we have the situation that we have we will give him plenty of reps and will get him ready to go.”
The knock on Choice is his readiness and understanding of the offense. At Thomas County, he played quarterback so he still does not have all the concepts and blocking schemes down that a running back is required to know, not just in Chad Morris’ but in any offense.
“Pass protection is a whole new deal for him,” Swinney said. “He played quarterback so he has not done a whole lot pass protection. He is a natural runner and is probably the best one we have with the ball in his hands, but there is a lot more about playing running back than just having the ball in your hands.”
Choice got the coaches’ attention early in camp when the team went to full pads. He exceled in goal line and short yardage situations so they began to think he might help the team there.
“He has been a guy that has shown a lot of promise in camp, but he has not gotten as many reps with those other guys there. There are only so many reps to go around,” Swinney said. “He has done a really good job. He has a good understanding, but fundamentally executing everything, we will not ask him to do that. Not just yet.
“We will get him ready and I don’t have any doubt, as we go throughout the season, he is going to impact us. You give him the ball – it is easy for him from there.”