So, you want to start at RB?

CLEMSON - By most accounts, Clemson's backfield is deep and talented entering the 2014 season. Unfortunately, it's also inexperienced.

And that inexperience has opened the door for a number of possibilities as the Tigers get ready for No. 12 Georgia on August 30.

With the loss of last year's leading rusher Roderick McDowell, any one of six different players are making a bid to replace him.

Did I say six?

Actually, when you include all of the freshmen, it could be as many as seven.

That list includes the following players: D.J. Howard, Zac Brooks, C.J. Davidson, Tyshon Dye, Wayne Gallman, Adam Choice and C.J. Fuller. And we haven't mentioned short-yardage specialists J.J. McCullough or Army transfer Kurt Fleming yet.

So how is the staff going to differentiate between all of these backs? The answer just might surprise you.

While explosiveness and the ability to hit the home run are always important, the staff is just as concerned with the fundamentals of the position - which means holding onto the ball in traffic and pass protection.

Advantage D.J. Howard.

Sure, there could be more talented running backs behind him on the depth chart, but Howard's understanding of the offense and ability to handle himself in pass protection will allow him to see the field early and often in 2014.

"We talked about that today in fact," Howard told CUTigers this weekend. "If you can't pass protect and you can't hold onto the ball, you aren't going to get carries. And we all know that."

Howard said handling yourself in pass protection takes time and experience, which is something he has a lot more of than the other running backs on the roster.

"The most important thing with pass protection is reading the defense. What do you have? If you see a MIKE coming off the edge you have to realize that's your guy," he said. "It's a learning process. It's so much studying film and reps. You have to have put in that time to be able understand how it all works.

"I haven't really been comfortable with it until right now to be honest with you. I'm to the point now where it goes from the film room to the field ... and I'm like, 'oh yeah' I can see that now."

The running back position has been one of the most talked about battles of preseason camp. With so many players vying for carries, the competition is fierce.

Howard said the chemistry of the group is good, even though they are all competing against each other.

"It's a brotherhood right now, but once we put on the helmet, it's everybody for themselves," he said. "And we understand that. We sharpen each other and we are all going to push each other to the limit."

When asked what separates himself from the other backs, Howard quickly responded, "Knowledge. Knowledge and experience by far. It's my fifth year so that's going to be a difference."

We'll see if that knowledge means what he thinks it does on Aug. 30.

It certainly can't hurt. Top Stories