Last year, Clemson had an alpha at running back in Wayne Gallman. This season is different, and that’s why second-ranked Clemson hasn’t settled on a feature back after two games.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney feels he has three running backs in redshirt juniors C.J. Fuller and Adam Choice and sophomore Tavien Feaster that are each capable of being the starting running back and deserve their share of the reps. However, none have separated themselves enough to earn that status as the guy or lead back — at least not yet.
“That’ll be a game-time decision,” Swinney said of the running back rotation on Tuesday. “It’ll be that way every week. That’s not going to change unless something just materializes on the field. We’ve got three guys that we think can start for us, and every rep matters, every practice matters, and it’s going to be a game decision week in and week out.”
The Tigers didn’t have a running back rush for more than 17 yards in their victory over No. 15 Auburn on Saturday. Altogether, Clemson ran for just 96 yards, averaged 2.7 yards per carry and recorded 284 total yards on 66 plays.
Choice received the most carries among the running backs with seven for 17 yards, while Feaster logged three carries for 15 yards and Fuller had four totes for nine yards.
Swinney indicated Tuesday that he would have liked to seen the backs get more action.
“Disappointed that we never got rhythm of an offense last week,” he said. “Sixty-something plays. We want to be an 85-plus play team. So a lot of touches that guys didn’t get that we need to get so we can continue to expose them and evaluate them through the game.”
Travis Etienne was the only scholarship running back that didn’t play against Auburn.
Clemson didn’t feel comfortable throwing the freshman in the fire, so to speak, that was a big primetime game against a stout SEC defense. Swinney, though, says his time is coming.
“He’s got to get his snaps as they come, and he’s got to prove it when he gets those opportunities,” Swinney said. “Last week wasn’t a situation where we were ready to throw him out there. … Travis is going to be awesome, and he’s going to get his opportunity.”
While there isn’t much separation between Fuller, Choice and Feaster heading into Clemson’s game at No. 14 Louisville on Saturday, Swinney made clear what would cause separation for the running backs in a negative sense.
“Now if they put the ball on the ground, they’re standing on the sideline,” Swinney said. “There’s not enough separation for a guy to go out there and put the ball on the ground. You put the ball on the ground, you’re going to stand on that sideline for a while because we’re going to play those other guys. Again, it’s too close and too competitive to put a guy out there that’s not going to take care of it.”