An early enrolled freshman from Arkansas, he was just a few months removed from Jonesboro High School last spring.
"Last year, I came in second guessing myself a whole lot," Zac Brooks said. "I know the guys. I know the defense. I'm more familiar with the players. I didn't realize how much of an impact that would make on my confidence.
"Now I can come out here, it's not strangers. I'm not trying to protect myself. I'm looser with the program, I guess I could say."
One thing hasn't changed. Brooks needs to gain weight.
"We've got some right sized linebackers. Those guys are strong," he said. "Me coming in at 190, them sitting at 230 -- benching twice as much as I'm benching -- that's a matchup they're going to have. They're going to stand me up every time."
It's not as if Brooks isn't trying to pack on the pounds.
"I've been lean all my life. I don't know if it's going to come with age," he said. "I've been eating the way I'm supposed to. I've been working out the way I'm supposed to. I jumped six pounds in January when we were doing a lot of lifting.
"Hopefully, this summer, when we get back to straight lifting and working out, I'll probably jump up again. That's what I'm hoping for."
Brooks is also hoping to gain an inside track in the running back rotation. With the graduation of Andre Ellington, there are plenty of touches to go around.
"It's fun. It's a competition. That's what we play the game for," Brooks said. "Andre, he left. He left everybody with something -- he left everybody with a little knowledge.
"I'm not saying who's going to have the starting spot. I'm pretty sure that we're going to get a lot of playing time as a group, because we have a lot of excellent backs. There's a lot of talent in the backfield.
"It's going to be a hard decision for the coaches. That's what we're trying to do."
He's confident, not only in himself, but also in the other two scholarship running backs on the roster.
"We're all interchangeable. It's a great group of backs. It's going to be an exciting season," Brooks said.
Renewed sense of self
CUTigers.com Top Stories
TIGERS REMAIN #3 IN BOTH POLLSWith Ohio State losing and Michigan jumping to #2, idle Clemson sits at #3 in both of Sunday's polls.
CUTigers.comYesterday at 10:59 AM
GRADES AND ANALYSIS: NC State#3 Clemson committed 4 turnovers, including 3 in the red zone and a pick-six, in its 24-17 overtime win over NC State in Death Valley.
CUTigers.comThursday at 2:52 PM
Clemson Basketball Media DayWatch Head Coach Brad Brownell and his assistant coaches discuss the upcoming basketball season at Clemson Media Day!
CUTigers.comThursday at 1:30 PM
PHOTO GALLERY: #3 Clemson vs NC StateEnjoy these images from Clemson's thrilling overtime victory versus NC State in Death Valley, courtesy of CUTigers Photographer John Bolton!
CUTigers.comThursday at 11:12 AM
College coaches who could get hired awayWhy these highly sought college football coaches would leave (and why they could stay)
ScoutThursday at 10:00 AM