Who replaces Andre Ellington?

After a productive college career, Andre Ellington is preparing for life in the NFL. Left behind him in Clemson is a sizeable void at running back.

Dabo Swinney doesn't necessarily see it that way.

"We know a lot about the guys we got and are confident," Swinney said. "You saw in the bowl game. We had no problem handing that ball to Roderick McDowell against LSU.

"He performed at a high level for us when we needed it."

In the 25-24 Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU, McDowell rushed for 26 yards and caught two passes.

McDowell finished the season with 450 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

"I think he was one of the real positive stories from our team last year," Swinney said.

Indeed he was.

And the Tigers needed it. In the interest of both the long and short-term, one of their reserves had to emerge behind Ellington.

From the outside looking in, McDowell didn't appear to be much of a candidate. Before last season, he totaled just 46 carries for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

"That's what I tell guys all the time. Players develop differently. As long as a guy's working and competing, and he's got the right skill set, he'll develop," Swinney said. "Rod McDowell has just been a guy that's had to develop.

"Heck, he's put on 20-something pounds since he came to Clemson. Physically, he's had a lot of preparation and a lot of transforming he's had to do. He's done that.

"He's 190-something pounds. He's strong as a bull. With that development, his confidence has grown. Because of his confidence, he's had success on the field. I just think Hot Rod is going to be a great leader for us."

However, Swinney doesn't believe that McDowell will be able to shoulder the entire load this fall.

This spring, McDowell will share reps with D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks.

"D.J. Howard is a guy that really won the backup job going into the season last year," Swinney said. "We felt very good, but he was hurt all year, couldn't stay healthy. Hopefully, he'll be able to avoid that injury bug this year, going into his junior year."

Howard rushed for 138 yards on 35 carries and scored two touchdowns in 2012.

"He's a very fast player. He's a different style runner. We feel very good about where he is, mentally and physically," Swinney said.

Apparently, Brooks' confidence is also on the uptick.

"Because of the experience that he got with his offensive opportunities and his special teams play, he's a different guy right now," Swinney said.

Brooks rushed for 119 yards on 26 rushes last season.

"Those three guys are what we've got," Swinney said, before adding one more name to the equation.

"We've got one walk-on guy that's here that I'm excited about, C.J. Davidson. I'm anxious to see him this spring," he said. "He's got the ability to -- maybe -- make a little bit of noise, a very talented player from Daniel High School. Actually signed here on track scholarship, but decided he wanted to play football."

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