Fighting for playing time

CLEMSON - Throughout his recruitment, D.J. Howard made it known that he wanted to play running back at the college level.

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A one-time Auburn commitment, Howard began to rethink his pledge to those Tigers when word spread that he would likely play safety. Thus, the courtship to Clemson began a few months before he was scheduled to sign with Auburn.

Clemson went on to land the Lincoln, Ala. three-star on signing day, making him the second running back in the Tigers' 2010 class.

Now, Howard and his best friend/roommate Demont Buice, the other 2010 running back, are two of the three running backs competing for carries this spring.

"We've got family back home leaning on us and expecting us to do great things," Howard said. "We've got to hold ourselves to those standards."

He sees this spring as an opportunity to prove that he's ready to contribute. To do that, Howard said there are several aspects of his game that need to be improved.

"Just the small things, as far as ball security. I don't realize when I'm running that I've got the ball swinging," he said. "When I watch film, I try to critique myself. I need to hold the ball a little tighter to my chest, get my knees up and run with good pad level."

With all that in mind, Howard set his sites on the No. 2 running back spot.

"Everybody wants to be that starting player," he said. "You've got to look at Andre Ellington, at his experience and the type of guy that he is. I know, coming into the fall, he's going to work hard, because he wants his spot back."

It's Ellington and former Clemson running back Jamie Harper who have provided Howard with a solid foundation over the last several months.

"They were the type of guys that kept you motivated and want to work harder, to push yourself," Howard said. "At times, coming in as a high school student, you have a comfort zone that you're afraid to step out of, because you haven't ever pushed to the level. Learning from those guys, they kept us on our toes."

After Monday's practice, the first since students returned from spring break, head coach Dabo Swinney admitted that he wasn't sure if Clemson would be able to win with any of the three running backs participating in spring practice.

That's fine with Howard. He's got plenty of time to right his wrongs and push Swinney in the other direction.

"We're all going to make mistakes. It's just how you adapt and overcome the circumstances," Howard said. Top Stories