Spring Outlook: Running Backs

Spring Outlook: Running Backs


Spring Outlook: Running Backs


By Will Vandervort.

From the beginning last season, the running back position was in a state of chaos.

Zac Brooks, who was in a battle with D.J. Howard throughout fall camp for the starting job, went down with a broken foot during the final week of camp that ended his season before it even started. Brooks’ injury started a 10-week courtship with four other running backs and another season-ending injury before the Tigers finally found their guy.

Howard, Adam Choice, Wayne Gallman and C.J. Davidson all started at least one game for Clemson, while Tyshon Dye returned from a torn Achilles heel suffered last winter to play in the final four games and became the No. 2 guy on the Clemson depth chart.

Gallman, a redshirt freshman in 2014, eventually emerged as the go-to guy as he rushed for 571 of his team-high 769 yards in the final six games of the season.

The good news for Clemson is that all six running backs on the depth chart are more than capable of making an impact on the team in 2015 and five of the six can perhaps start. I believe Gallman, Dye and Brooks are perhaps a step ahead of the others, depending on how Choice recovers from ACL surgery. He is likely not ready to participate in full contact drills this spring.

Wayne Gallman, So., 6-foot-1, 205 pounds

About: Gallman led the Tigers last year with 769 yards, while scoring four touchdowns. He came on strong late in the year as he had three 100-yard rushing games in the final six games, including 191 yards against South Carolina. After becoming the starter in Game 8, he rushed for 571 yards and scored three of his four touchdowns. In his last four games against ACC or SEC teams, he had 486 yards and two touchdowns on 89 carries.

Strengths: He has good vision and is faster than he appears. He has very good burst once he gets to the hole or has a lane.

Weaknesses: He sometimes dances too much in the hole and he gets impatient or outruns his blocks. Also, he has issues reading and picking up blitzes.

Tyshon Dye, So., 5-foot-11, 215 pounds

About: Dye spent the first year and eight games nursing injuries before finally seeing the playing field at Wake Forest last fall. As the primary running back against Georgia State, he rushed for 124 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns. He finished the year with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in 57 snaps over four games.

Strengths: Perhaps the most physical and strongest running back on the team. He has natural instincts for running the ball. Is very patient in Clemson’s zone-blocking schemes and has good burst when he sees or finds a hole. He has very good vision as well.

Weaknesses: Has had issues staying healthy. Suffered a back injury that required surgery as a true freshman and then last Februarys he tore his Achilles during mat drills.

Zac Brooks, Jr., 6-foot, 200 pounds

About: Brooks was in line to be the starter last fall before breaking his foot in the final days of fall camp, which held him out for the entire season. He was primarily a backup in 2013 as one of the team’s most physical running backs. He has 365 yards on 74 carries and two touchdowns along with nine receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown in 204 snaps over 18 games in his career.

Strengths: He is a good straight ahead physical runner that has the ability to bounce the ball outside and pick up big yards. A former wide receiver in high school, he also has soft hands and runs good routes which allows him to be a factor in the passing game.

Weaknesses: He does not have breakaway speed and has had issues throughout his career staying healthy for long stretches of time.

Adam Choice, So., 5-foot-9, 215 pounds

About: Choice had emerged as the starting running back before going down with a season-ending knee injury at Boston College. The true freshman had 218 yards and one touchdown on 50 carries along with nine receptions for 90 yards in 130 snaps over six games. His best game came against Louisville’s nationally ranked defense when he rushed for 43 of his 61 yards on the game’s final drive to set up what turned out to be Clemson’s decisive points in a 23-17 victory. He also had 74 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and two receptions for 15 yards against S.C. State.

Strengths: He is very smart and has great instincts. He is a physical runner that proved he can carry tacklers down the field. He is also deceptively fast and can run away from defensive backs and safeties once he gets into the open field.

Weaknesses: How will coming back from a torn ACL affect him mentally? Also, given the fact he was a triple-option quarterback in high school, did missing the last half of the season affect his growth in Clemson’s offense which he was just getting the hang of. He also needs to improve in pass blocking and picking up blitzes.

C.J. Davidson, Sr., 5-foot-10, 200 pounds

About: Originally a walk-on, Davidson used his speed and athletic ability to get on the field. He has 408 yards on 100 carries and seven touchdowns, 14 receptions for 100 yards and three kickoff returns for 39 yards while playing in 25 games in his career. He had 248 yards on 64 carries and three touchdowns in 2014, including nine receptions for 60 yards and three kickoff returns for 39 yards.

Strengths: A former member of the Clemson track & field team, Davidson has outstanding speed. He has a quick first step and is very patient while waiting on his blocks.

Weaknesses: Has a tendency to put the ball on the ground and struggles to block blitzing linebackers and defensive ends. He needs to get stronger and a little more physical.

C.J. Fuller, Fr., 5-foot-9, 215 pounds

About: Fuller was rated as the No. 19 prospect in South Carolina by 247Sports.com and Rivals.com coming out of Easley High School in 2014. He played running back and cornerback as he helped Easley to the state playoffs for three consecutive years, a first in school history. He had 3,381 career rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns as well as a school-record 2,090 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior. He rushed for a career-high 309 yards against Wren High School.

Strengths: A former track star at Easley, he has very good speed and can break away from defenders. He is also big enough to be physical between the tackles.

Weaknesses: He is not as polished as some of the other running backs at Clemson right now. Needs more understanding of the offense and what the running back is asked to do.



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