Previewing the running backs

CUTigers previews the running back position as the Tigers gear up for the start of spring practice.

WHO LEFT?
Jamie Harper and Daniel Barnes - Harper led Clemson in rushing last season with 760 yards on 190 carries. He also rushed for seven scores. The junior surprised quite a few followers of the program when he announced his intentions on forgoing his senior season for the NFL last month.

As a sophomore, Harper rushed for 418 yards, which was third-best on the team. He added 133 yards as a freshman playing behind C.J. Spiller and James Davis.
Barnes, a walk-on, rushed for 91 yards during his senior season.

THIS YEAR'S LINEUP
Andre Ellington (RS Jr.) - In nine games last season, Ellington rushed 118 times for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 109 yards and a score.

Roderick McDowell (RS Soph.) - During his first season of play at the college level, McDowell participated in seven games. He rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and caught a pass for four yards.

Demont Buice (RS Fr.) - Scout team running back last season. Buice was recognized by the team at the annual awards banquet for his scout team work.

D.J. Howard (RS Fr.) - Scout team running back last season.

BEHIND THE SCENES
Ellington was working at an all-conference pace last season before going down with a foot injury against Boston College. He's still recovering from surgery but could be back before the end of spring practice. If he were to be ready before spring workouts are over, Ellington could be a limited participant.

McDowell will be the most experience running back going through drills when practice gets underway on Mar. 4. After a solid start to last year's fall camp, he never was quite the same last season after undergoing a couple of injuries.

With McDowell expected to work as the first-team running back, Howard and Buice will split second-team reps, and will probably get a share of first-team work, too.

Buice was one of two offensive scout team players recognized for his efforts during the 2010 season.

Within the last month or so, the prospects of him and/or Howard sticking around at running back dramatically increased. Former Clemson commitment Marlin Lane was still on the Tigers' board and Harper had yet to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft.

Lane has since signed with Tennessee and Harper is getting ready for this month's draft combine.

Mike Bellamy, who some compare to C.J. Spiller, is expected to arrive later this summer, assuming that he qualifies.

Keep in mind Clemson's running backs have a new coach this year in former Clemson wide receiver Tony Elliott.
STORYLINES WORTH FOLLOWING
1. How soon will Ellington be able to recover and return to the field at 100 percent?

2. Can Hot Rod return to the form that saw him get a lot of praise from coaches in pre-season camp last year?

3. Who is ready to step up between Howard and Buice?
4. What will the running game under new offensive coordinator Chad Morris look like?

BOLD PREDICTION
Because his skills and size are better suited to make plays on the perimeter, McDowell will be a better fit in the new offensive system and emerge as more of a factor in Clemson's rushing attack.

Keep an eye on McDowell throughout spring as he's given the ball more in open space and produces a couple of jaw-dropping moves in scrimmages and the orange and white game on April 9.

PROJECTED POST-SPRING DEPTH CHART
1. Andre Ellington
2. Roderick McDowell
3. Demont Buice
4. D.J. Howard


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