TOURE FRANCIS: Run Game Always Critical

Recently, I sat down with starting running back Reggie Merriweather to get his thoughts on a number of topics, including his role in the Tigers' ever evolving ground game. <BR>

The ground game is probably the most important facet of an offense because it allows a team to control the ball, and it also keeps the defense honest.

A good rushing attack, keeps things in order when you have a lead, and it also helps establish the perceived toughness of a team throughout the course of a season.

For the Tigers, if their new and improved offense is to have any success next year, the running attack will need to be much more consistent than what it was last season.

Looking back to last year, before the Miami game, Clemson averaged just 96.9 yards per game rushing, a number than ranked 108th nationally out of 117 Division 1-A teams.

However during that upset win against the Hurricanes, and two weeks later against South Carolina, the Tigers' ground attack finally started to show reasonable production.

It started with Reggie Merriweather, who mustered 114 yards on 20 carries against Miami in a 24-17 upset win. It was the first time a Clemson back ran for over 100 yards all season.

He did it again against South Carolina, gaining 125 yards on 28 carries.

But now, with the addition of a new offensive coordinator, it will be hard to predict how successful the run game will be next season.

Recently, I spoke with Reggie Merriweather about that very subject.

"The running attack will be like any other offense. We might throw in an extra receiver at times, and if we're (the running backs) not running we might be coming out of the backfield," says Merriweather as he described the role of the running back in Spence's offense.

Interestingly enough, had Merriweather kept his stats from Clemson, he would have been Toledo's leading rusher last year by 50 yards. The difference is that Toledo totaled 2,091 yards rushing compared to Clemson's 1,183.

The Rockets obviously used more backs.

"Yeah, we're going to be switching out backs, not every three or four plays, but we're going to use all of the backs," said Merriweather.

Because the rushing statistics were down all season, but seemed to come together versus Miami and South Carolina, I asked Merriweather what created such an improvement.

"Well every game I feel it's going to be up to us (the running backs) and the Miami game they just gave us the ball and we produced. I think in those games we gave the offense a spark and they (Miami and USC) scouted our passing and were just dropping their guys back.

"I really think we progressed all season and those games we got the ball and proved that we could make plays. For me it was a big step to put myself on the map and I thank the fans for the support because it helps to motivate."

I also asked Merriweather what he is personally doing to become Clemson's premier running back and he answered, "Well I really just stay in the film room. Learning a new offense you'll have to see where the coach is coming from, and I just look at what he's done at Toledo, I watch the backs there and try to transfer it over. We have the same plays with different terminology, so when you get that down, everything else is fine."

As always, Merriweather is confident that he can handle the load of getting the ball 20 or more times a game this season.

"Yeah, in high school I used to run it 40 times a game. That's what preparation is for, anytime they call your number you go," said the former North Augusta star.

Without question, if Merriweather went over 40 carries in a game for the Tigers, you'd have to believe that Clemson would have a great opportunity to win the game.

Let's just hope we see some of that later this fall. Top Stories