Steady improvement

CLEMSON - D.J. Howard deflected most of the praise he received for his play in Saturday's stadium scrimmage.

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The redshirt freshman running back from Lincoln, Ala. carried for 85 yards on 19 carries, the most rushing yards of the three running backs that are participating in Clemson's spring practice.

Howard was quick to point out that it was far from a perfect outing.

"I had a few missed assignments. I wasn't that comfortable with my performance today. I felt I was slipping a lot," he said. "I feel like I got better, mentally, as far as my alignments, assignments and concepts that I had to pick up on."

Head coach Dabo Swinney was one of several who reminded Howard that he did indeed play well.

"D.J. Howard is really, really improving," Swinney said. "I think he's going to be one of those guys we look up a few years from now and say, 'Man this guy is a really good player.' He's got all the tools you like to see and he's really fast."

Howard was hesitant in saying that he moved closer to the inside track for the No. 2 running back, but the numbers from Saturday indicated otherwise.

"Yes and no," he said, when asked if he's starting to emerge as the leading candidate. "I'm learning the plays and grasping a hold of the concepts that we're trying to get down, knowing the position that we're in.what you need to get the first down."

Howard already sounds like a veteran in assessing what was working well and what propelled him to the solid day.

"The plays, the line--the line is great," he said. "They work hard day in and day out. They're doing some great things up front to give me an edge on the defense."

This spring, Howard is competing with Demont Buice and Roderick McDowell in the race for the No. 2 running back spot. Neither Swinney nor offensive coordinator Chad Morris have said that any of the three backs have separated from the others.

"It's a learning process. I'm taking it a day at a time," Howard said. "I'm grasping the concepts as a whole. I know what the coaches expect of me and I'm trying to pursue all my assignments to the greatest ability." Top Stories