Reserve role

CLEMSON - In his first season on the field at Clemson, redshirt freshman D.J. Howard has seen his share of ups and downs.

Howard, the Tigers' fourth-leading rusher with 226 yards, started the year off with a bang.

The Lincoln, Ala. Native reeled off four carries for 29 yards and a score in the season opener against Troy. After just one carry against Wofford, he then had nine carries for 86 yards against Auburn.

"I look back, probably my break-out game was Auburn, when I first got noticed," Howard said. "I tried to thrive off that."

Unfortunately, he was sidelined with an injury for the Florida State and Virginia Tech games, before bouncing back against the Boston College, Maryland and North Carolina games with 11 carries for 50 yards.

Flying high into the Georgia Tech game with a perfect 8-0 record, things turned south for both Howard and his the team.

With an injured Andre Ellington on the sideline, Howard totaled seven carries for 23 yards and one catch for four yards. The catch was fumbled and led to a Yellow Jacket touchdown.

"I started focusing too much on the big things," Howard said. "I started losing focus on the little things, as far as attention to detail and all that. I ended up having a downfall, as far as the Georgia Tech game.

"Fumbles, they played a big thing. I'm just focusing on the little things. The big things will work out."

For now, the focus is on the Jan. 4 showdown with West Virginia at the Orange Bowl.

"It's very important for the team. Win the ACC Championship and then come back and win the Orange Bowl, that would be great," he said. "It would set the standard for the young guys coming in, just trying to work on the little things to get better."

As Howard noted, it would set a standard for future Clemson teams.

"This year, we reached all of our goals, except for one, reaching the state championship -- beating South Carolina," he said. "Each year, we try to get better, to help build that standard, so the younger guys know what their role is when they get here. We accept nothing but the best."

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