Practice makes perfect

CLEMSON - What did Andre Ellington need to do to kick-start his game day performance? The answer just might surprise you.

Andre Ellington needed to get back into the swing of things Monday through Thursday.

After suffering a hamstring injury against Auburn and a thigh bruise against Virginia Tech, Ellington went several weeks without a full load during the week, usually just practicing on Wednesday and Thursday.

Last week's prep for Maryland was the first-time he was able to participate Monday through Thursday.

As it turns out, it was just what he needed.

The redshirt junior carried 22 times for 212 yards and scored two touchdowns, including the final nail in the coffin on a 44-yard scoring scamper with less than four minutes left to play.

Practice does a body good.

"Just having that opportunity [to practice] last week, it gave me a chance to have a great game on Saturday," Ellington said.

During Saturday's 56-45 win over Maryland, Ellington had the third 100-yard rushing game of the season and the seventh of his career. His career-high 212 yards were the highest total by a Clemson running back since C.J. Spiller went for 233 against Georgia Tech in the 2009 ACC Championship.

"[Practice] gets you into a good rotation with the offensive line, gets you good timing with the quarterback and just kind of seeing the blocks before they happen," Ellington said.

He, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris and running backs coach Tony Elliott decided that his total yardage output against the Terps could have been higher.

"There were some runs, after first contact, I can still kind of keep my balance and go for three or four more yards," Ellington said.

Those extra yards could be tougher to come by this week when North Carolina [5-2, 1-2 ACC] visits Clemson [7-0, 4-0 ACC]. The Tar Heels' run defense ranks 26th in the country with 108.43 rushing yards allowed per game.

"They're extremely good, extremely talented, strong, physical up front, probably the most physical front that we've seen," Morris said. "They play exceptionally well with their hands.

"They're big. They're strong, if I hadn't already said that."

Leading that defensive front is senior weak-side linebacker Zach Brown, who's first among North Carolina defenders with 46 tackles. Middle linebacker Kevin Reddick is second with 36.

On Monday, North Carolina interim head coach Everett Withers announced that starting strong-side linebacker Ebele Okakpu had been dismissed from the team. Darius Lipfrod, who will start in his place, is ninth among Tar Heel defenders with 27 tackles.

Rounding out the defensive front, which Morris thinks is as talented as any Clemson has seen this season, are ends Quinton Coples, Donte Paige-Moss and Kareem Martin and tackles Sylvester Williams and Tydreke Powell.

Coples is the only member of the above names who's not among the top 10 tacklers for the Tar Heels.

"This is going to be a great challenge for our offensive line, and for this football team, for this offensive football team," Morris said.


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