Shift in identity?

CLEMSON - Triggered by Tajh Boyd, Clemson has developed a bit of a reputation for its high-flying offense.

In three seasons as the starting quarterback in Chad Morris' hurry-up, no-huddle attack, Boyd passed for over 10,000 yards 100 touchdowns. However, e and the guys who were largely responsible for eye-popping stats -- DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant -- are all gone.

Not to suggest that Clemson wasn't interested in running the football over the last three seasons, because they were -- there was a 1,000-yard rusher each year, but with a first-year starter at quarterback and a group of mostly inexperienced receivers, there could be a shift in identity for the Tigers' offense in 2014.

"I want to see us really run the football," said Dabo Swinney, during his end of the 2013 season wrap-up interview. "We ran the ball well against Ohio State who is top-10 in the nation defensively against the run. We ran the ball well against South Carolina. We were creative in how we did some things.

"We have a chance to be pretty special in our back field. It will be a little bit of a shift in that direction, if you will, but we will see. We are what we are. We do what we do."

Andre Ellington eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in 2011 and 2012. Roderick McDowell managed to it in the final game of the 2013 season.

"We didn't have Ellington, so there was a little bit of a transition," Swinney said of last year's run game. "We didn't have as deep of a pool at running back as I'd like to because of injuries.

"Zac Brooks had a hard time staying healthy. D.J. [Howard] got banged up a little here and there. Hot Rod was money. He was solid all year long. Tyshon Dye -- we really felt like was going to help us, but he got hurt during camp. Jay Jay McCullough really developed. He was guy that wasn't really ready for the role we wanted him to have, but he really came along. Maybe y'all didn't see it, but we've seen it.

"We were still really good offensively and did a lot of good things and played to our strengths."

A running quarterback could be among those strengths in 2014, particularly if Chad Kelly or Deshaun Watson are in the game.

"I think you will continue to see the quarterback be a big factor for us," Swinney said. "I just believe that when you're quarterback isn't a threat to run the ball, then we are really playing 11 on 10. The quarterback is a great equalizer and really stresses on the defense. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense. That element has got to improve from where we've been and I think it will."

Strong line play will help make the Clemson run game even better in 2014. There's been some turnover there, too, with the departures of multi-year starters Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley.

"Offensively, we lose a couple of really good ones on the line," Swinney said. "[Isaiah] Battle really emerged. Shaq Anthony started coming on. We've got a couple of guys like [Eric] Mac Lain and Joe Gore, that this is a huge year for them. [Jay] Guillermo, I feel good about him. I feel good about a young [Tyrone] Crowder, Ryan Norton, Kalon [Davis] and [David] Beasley.

"We've got a lot of good pieces, but we've got to sort all of that out. It's going to be a lot of fun watching them compete." Top Stories