Starting with a clean slate

CLEMSON - Roderick McDowell is working with a clean slate this spring as he continues to fight for carries before his third season at Clemson.

In 2010, his redshirt freshman year, McDowell rushed 32 times for 161 yards and a touchdown--not the kind of start that he spent the previous couple of years dreaming about.

"In the offseason, the coaches told us to unplug with the old stuff and put the new stuff in," McDowell said after Monday's practice, the first since students returned from spring break. "When we got the new stuff in, we hopped straight on it--all the running backs and the whole offense. We just got together and said we want to be better.

"We just want to learn. We're putting the old stuff behind us and getting the new stuff."

The we, which is made up of redshirt freshmen Demont Buice and D.J. Howard, also includes Andre Ellington, who's sidelined with a foot injury.

McDowell, Buice and Howard are currently in a three-way battle royal for carries this spring. The elder statesmen of the trio, McDowell, said they're competing with each other, not against.

"Nobody is trying to worry about who gets the most reps. We pride ourselves on [that]," he said. "You're just ready to go in there and have fun. Everybody is eager to play."

McDowell is excited about the system that's being put into place by first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

"This is what Clemson really needed, a spread offense where we just go out there and have fun, puts athletes on the field," McDowell said. "The coaching staff and the players are all together. We're having fun."

Fun, the buzz word that's floated around among offensive players this spring, is exactly what he needed.

It wasn't all that long ago that it wouldn't take much for him to lose the feeling. If McDowell struggled to break off a big run or make a big play, he'd find himself losing focus, and maybe a little bit of confidence, too.

On his shoulder was a growing chip.

"At the end of the day, I can't go out there and try to prove people wrong," McDowell said. "I've got to go out there and play for myself."

That old saying of patience being a virtue definitely applies.

"Everybody makes mistakes," McDowell said. "I've got to go out there and learn, listen, stop trying to be too eager to do everything, just be patient." Top Stories