Merriweather Up to the Challenge

While at North Augusta High in 2001, Reggie Merriweather garnered All-American honors as a running back, but he was never really considered as someone who could make that same sort of impact at the next level.

At the time, Lexington High's Demetris Summers was viewed as the best in the state, thus Merriweather was more of an afterthought by many, including colleges.

However, through sheer determination, patience, hard work and a little bit of good fortune, Merriweather finally got his chance in the second half of last season to emerge as the top running back at Clemson. The redshirt sophomore started the last six games and finished with 670 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.

But just when it seems he has his grip as the starting running back and is finally getting his just due, in comes prize recruit James Davis, highly touted running back from Atlanta, who many believe will be the best back at Clemson in a long, long time.

Once again, Merriweather is becoming an afterthought.

"That doesn't hurt my feelings at all," he said. "I just come into it trying to be better than the next guy. It doesn't offend me any. When I get out on the field, I let my actions show for themselves."

What seems to bother Merriweather the most is not the fact that he specifically is getting shunned, but rather the entire group of running backs, which include Duane Coleman and Kyle Browning, is being forgotten about.

He wants fans and media alike to understand that they are quality players, too.

"(Fans and media) are seeing James Davis and other freshmen coming in and making a direct impact and forgetting about us," he said. "They don't know the full aspect of camp and learning the whole operation and physically training and working out and other stuff like that.

"Last year, the coaches thought we could win throwing the ball and that really wasn't the case," he said. "As far as us getting the ball 20 or 30 times a game, that was pretty much impossible."
"I hope they do come in and make an impact. Us as veterans, we have to set standards and sometimes freshmen have a hard time living up to them. If they make an impact, that means we'll be a better team, but (fans and media) shouldn't forget about us. We're going to make an impact, too."

Merriweather is as excited as ever with the possibilities hold for all the running backs with the new offense.

Last season, the tailbacks didn't see the ball much and it led to a lot of frustration on their part. After starting out 1-4, Merriweather thought the offense was relying on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst's right arm a bit too much.

"It always a struggle when you have to rely on the pass," Merriweather said then. "You see schools like Texas, Tennessee, (South) Carolina, Miami and Florida State, they're always running the ball and running the ball and then they throw it just to keep you on your toes. Obviously we have a good game plan, but the run is just in there sometimes and not all the time.

"Right now, with the great quarterback and the great wide receivers, we're just using the run to set up the pass. I think basically that's what's wrong. We have a lot of formations with three wide and four wide, so I put it on that."

As the season progressed, Merriweather touched the ball more and not coincidently the Tigers started winning more.

But now with new offensive coordinator Rob Spence at the helm, the running backs can expect to see anywhere from 20 to 35 carries a game.

"Last year, the coaches thought we could win throwing the ball and that really wasn't the case," he said. "As far as us getting the ball 20 or 30 times a game, that was pretty much impossible. But this year I think it's going to work because we have the style of offense we have."

And should the running backs get the ball that many times as expected, don't be surprised to see Merriweather once again leading the way in touchdowns and yardage, even with Davis getting playing time. Merriweather sure won't be shocked. Top Stories