The Clemson Tigers have always had a pretty goo dplan for its running backs, and the fans have generally had a pretty good idea of who was going to carry the load.
After James Davis departed in 2008, everyone knew CJ Spiller would keep the ground game alive. and when Spiller left, everyone knew Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington could get the job done. And even when Harper departed a year early, everyone knew Andre Ellington would be better as the main feature back in this offense.
Now, fans can't really say that there will be that one feature, 20-25 touch running back currently on the roster to shoulder the running game as the feature back in an offense that has featured a 1,000 running back the last two seasons since Chad Morris became the offensive coordinator. The spring gives the Tigers an opportunity to see what they have at the position with the departure of Ellington and who could step up before the recruits arrive.
At the start of spring, the Tigers have rising red-shirt senior Rod McDowell, rising red-shirt junior DJ Howard, and rising sophomore Zac Brooks. McDowell was the primary backup last season, having rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns, and has worked with the first team thus far into spring practice, and he is looking to make his mark in the running game after being in the shadow of Clemson running backs in his first three seasons of eligibility.
DJ Howard showed flashes in 2011 and was the primary backup back then, but he faltered in his lone start against Georgia Tech when Ellington was down, and has struggled with nagging injuries his first two seasons. Brooks was a player that the coaches would have preferred to redshirt, but numbers forced their hand to have him as the fourth running back. Brooks now has a second spring to make an impression, and should he bulk up a little more, he could become the Tigers' answer for a short yardage back that they have sorely needed the last couple of seasons.
Besides these three in the spring, the Tigers also signed two running backs in their 2013 recruiting class. Wayne Gallman, a native of Loganville, Georgia, will come in at good size around 6-1, 190 pounds, and was rated as a four-star prospect by most recruiting services, while Tyshon Dye, a native of Elberton, Goergia, also comes in around 6-1, 210 pounds, and was also rated as a four-star prospect. Out of the two, Gallman seems the most likely to red-shirt, while Dye, depending on how much of the playbook he picks up, could see time in the running back rotation and even on special teams. The coaches have told him "be ready to play."
Despite the loss of Andre Ellington, the Tigers still seem pretty solid at the position, but having worked with mostly one runner as the feature back, it remains to be seen whether the Tigers will be working with a running back by committee approach in 2013, or whether one of the above mentioned running backs will seperate themselves come the season opener against Georgia on August 31st.