When TheClemsonInsider asked Tony Elliott to explain what it takes to play running back for the Tigers, size was the first thing that came to mind.
“With what we do and where we ask those guys to run,” Elliott said, “They’ve got to have a body type.”
That’s not to suggest that scat backs can’t be successful in Clemson’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense. When Elliott arrived to Clemson in 2011, Andre Ellington and Roderick McDowell were the top two running backs on the roster. Each rushed for over 1,000 yards during their respective senior seasons.
On the hoof, neither of the two would have fit the profile for the type of running back Clemson started to offer when when Chad Morris came on board in 2011.
“If you look at the statistics, I think the average size of a running back at the NFL Combine is somewhere around 212 pounds, so that means you’re going to have guys higher than that and a few guys lower than that,” Elliott said. “Watching Ellington, Ellington was the most complete back that I’ve ever been around, he just wasn’t a big guy, so you were always conscious about protecting him. With some of the bigger guys, you don’t have to worry about that as much.”
Injuries do happen, especially at running back. Generally speaking, the bigger the back, the lesser chance he’ll get injured.
“You’re trying to see if that guy can be a guy that won’t have durability issues. That’s what you hope, but you can’t predict that,” Elliott said.
But there’s more to playing running back at Clemson than being a big guy.
“Just their overall athleticism. I look a lot at their personality fit with me,” Elliott said. “Some people say speed. If a guy can run, he doesn’t have to be a blazer, because, a lot of times, you’re only going to be able to show off that speed a couple of times during the course of a game, but you’ve got to be able to run.
“Ball security, football knowledge — it’s a lot of different things that come into play. And, like Wayne (Gallman) and (Adam) Choice, they didn’t necessarily play running back their entire life, but I like the temperament and mentality that they had. They both played with the ball in their hands, so you could see their offensive skill set. I just thought they were good fits for me, and I felt like I was a good fit for them, so it’s just a combination of things.
“Each one is different, but you kind of know when you see if that guy has that it-factor. And does he have the measurables for this level to go with it?”
Elliott added, “I just like guys that are a little bigger that can protect themselves, not that I won’t recruit a small guy, if he’s a super, dynamic guy.”