Change in philosophy?

Year three of the hurry-up, no-huddle offense under Chad Morris could be slightly different than each of the first two.

Over the last couple of seasons, Andre Ellington shouldered the load as Clemson's primary ball carrier.

In 2011, Ellington rushed 223 times. Mike Bellamy was second among Tiger running backs that year with 57 carries. In 2012, Ellington carried the ball 212 times. Roderick McDowell was second among running backs with 83.

The days of such lopsided differences between the No. 1 and No. 2 running back could be over.

While McDowell enters 2013 listed as the starter, there is uncertainty as to whether or not he'll be able to eclipse the 200-carry plateau. Not that Morris and Dabo Swinney don't trust him with that many touches.

McDowell proved against LSU and over the course of last season that he was good enough to play. It's just a question as to whether or not he can withstand the pounding of 80 or more snaps a game, 13-14 times a season.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"A running back's longevity is about 45-50 snaps a game," Morris said.

Other running backs will be needed. Included in the stable of potential ball carriers is D.J. Howard, who exited the spring No 2 on the depth chart.

Spring practice was somewhat of a fresh start for Howard, who saw a decline in production last season.

In 2011, Howard carried 41 times for 230 yards for an average of 5.6 yards per rush. A year later, he rushed 35 times for 138 yards -- 3.9 yards per carry.

An assortment of injuries was the likely culprit. Though Howard wouldn't use that as an excuse, Swinney acknowledged that they were indeed a factor.

"D.J. was hurt all year," Swinney said. "He couldn't stay healthy, so hopefully he'll be able to avoid the injury bug during his junior year."

Morris wants Howard to look like the guy he saw in year one of the hurry-up, no-huddle.

"Last year wasn't a good year with the injuries," Howard said. "[Morris] challenged me to be that guy he'd seen in the previous year to this year. It's a challenge."

Howard wants it, too.

"I also challenged myself, because I knew last season was a warning. I'm out here challenging myself," he said.

One of three running backs on campus during the spring, Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman will join the fold when freshmen report later this month.

That means more candidates will be competing for touches and pushing for Howard's backup job.

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

Physically, Howard wants to improve in one area in particular.

"Flexibility, definitely flexibility," he said. "That's most important. Being able to sink my hips and make those cuts -- that's been a challenge for me." Top Stories