Elliott expects freshmen running backs to be ready to play

Elliott expects freshmen running backs to be ready to play

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Elliott expects freshmen running backs to be ready to play

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After losing rising senior Tavien Feaster to the NCAA transfer portal, Clemson returns just two scholarship running backs from the 2018 season: Travis Etienne and Lyn-J Dixon.

So, Tony Elliott has a simple message for the pair of true freshmen running backs that enrolled at Clemson this summer: Chez Mellusi and Michel Dukes.

“Get themselves ready to play. That’s the overall expectation,” the Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach said Tuesday at Dabo Swinney’s annual media outing. “But you know what, that’s the expectation for all of them. Same thing with Travis – get yourself ready to play, and if you’re ready to play, you can contribute. Same thing with Lyn-J. So, it won’t be any different, and there’s not going to be any additional pressure put on those guys.

“Because the biggest thing for those guys, in order for them to do what they do at this position, is confidence. So I have to do a great job of helping them manage their confidence. Let me handle all the pressure and all the expectation and take that off of them, and just let them go out and learn and develop, and then see where they are once we get halfway through fall camp.”

Elliott won’t be able to work with Mellusi and Dukes until fall practice begins in August, but he has received positive feedback from their summer workouts via some of Clemson’s veteran players.

For Mellusi, a highly regarded prospect from Naples (Fla.) High School who finished his high school career with nearly 4,000 yards rushing and 50 touchdowns, Elliott feels he is getting a player that is wise beyond his years between the ears.

“For him, he’s a very focused young man,” Elliott said. “You can tell that he’s got a lot of maturity. He comes from a great program, so he’s got a very strong foundation from a strength standpoint. Just talking to some of the older guys, they’re saying he’s moving around well, he’s grasping what they’re trying to teach him. But I won’t be able to fully assess it until I get out there, get my eyes on him and get my hands on him. But everything I’ve heard has been really positive on him, and on Mikey Dukes.”

Dukes, meanwhile, boasts outstanding athleticism that he showcased this spring when he won the 2019 Slam Fest in North Charleston.

The Charleston native concluded his prep career at First Baptist School with 8,762 rushing yards and 117 rushing touchdowns in addition to 743 yards receiving and nine touchdown receptions.

“I think he’s gotten some people’s attention with his athleticism,” Elliott said. “I think a lot of people and I think everybody here saw what he did in that dunk contest down in Charleston. And that was something that I had seen all along. I knew he was a really good athlete, so I think that’s what’s caught people’s attention, and they like his demeanor. He’s really focused.

“I saw him the other day, and it looks like he’s probably already gained about seven or eight pounds since he’s got here. So, he’s a guy that has really jumped in and is not trying to do too much, but he’s trying to do everything that he can if that makes sense.”

Elliott pointed to former Clemson and current New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman when explaining that Dukes and Mellusi have much to learn about the position in their first year at the college level.

Their biggest task, according to Elliott, will be learning how to be an effective pass protector in the Tigers’ offense.

“That’s probably the biggest concern,” he said. “And the next is understanding the run scheme and the timing. I go back to Wayne Gallman. Wayne Gallman, it took him a long time to figure that out. If you remember watching Wayne, he was trying to do everything on his own because he didn’t quite understand the concept and the timing.

“So once we’re able to get them to understand, then they can survive. Once they understand what we’re trying to do, they’re natural athletes with the ball in their hands and they know what they do. And then pass protection, it’s my job to assess what their knowledge is, figure out what they understand, what they don’t understand, figure out how to teach them and help them progress, and then day-to-day we work on the fundamentals.”

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