Powell Focused on Total Improvement

CUTigers.com recently spoke with Clemson running backs coach Andre Powell about the development of James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Ray Ray McElrathbey. Read what Powell had to say about the Tigers' talented backfield, including areas for improvement, in this report!

Nearly every college football fan throughout the nation is aware of the running capabilities of Clemson star tailbacks James Davis and C.J. Spiller. However, there are areas in which they need to improve and new running backs coach Andre Powell is helping them do so.

Some running backs need to work on their pass catching skills, while others need to focus in on being able to read blocks. Both Davis and Spiller are already pretty adept at each of those tasks.

But where they do need big improvement is in the pass blocking area, which is something each complete tailback needs to be able to do, especially if he has aspirations of playing at the next level.

"One thing in college football and pro football alike is you've got to protect that guy that's going to be throwing the passes," Powell said in an interview with CUTigers.com. "Anytime those pro scouts come in, the first thing they want to know is if he can pass protect. …

"We're trying to implement an attitude where we'll block anybody. We're going to take pride in it and it's something we've got to work on. I think they guys came a long way this spring, but they've got a ways to go."

When it was brought to the attention of the backs that they are fully expected to be able to handle a blitzing linebacker, there was some instant trepidation on the part of Davis and Spiller.

But by the time spring practice was over, the two of them started to become more accustomed to pass protecting.

"Anytime you ask them to do something new, particularly when it's new and could be somewhat uncomfortable, there is a little hesitation," Powell said. "But as the spring went on, those guys really had some great improvement. You could see them taking pride in it. I was pleased with the progress they made."

In order to be a good pass protector, Powell said there are three necessary things a running back has to do.

"You have to learn patience," he said. "You can't get overaggressive in the pass protection because you will render yourself out of control. Another thing you've got to do is you've got to do a great job of using your hands. It's much easier to throw the old shoulder, but we don't do any body movement in the weight room where we throw a shoulder, so we're not as strong that way. And once you get your hands on somebody, you can maneuver your hands a certain way to give yourself an advantage.

"And another thing is taking pride in your work. If you want to be a big league running back and if you want to be a total running back, then (blocking) is part of the game and you better be good at it. And I think those guys will be good at it."

Powell also said that the true indicator on whether a running back is doing his job in pass protecting well enough is how the quarterback acts when pressure starts to surround him.

"Did they give up sacks last year? No," Powell said. "But giving up sacks is one thing, and giving up pressures is another thing. We want that quarterback to feel comfortable and set his feet and know he's not going to get hit. So, we're going to continue to emphasize being physical in pass protection and being great technicians when it comes to pass protection."

REPORT ON RAY RAY: Most Tigers fans are aware of the move from defensive back to running back for redshirt sophomore Ray Ray McElrathbey. But due to a suspension from the first week of spring practice, he didn't get the full amount of time to get accustomed to his new position.

Nonetheless, Powell said he liked what he saw out of the Atlanta native.

"I thought Ray Ray made good strides, but he's got a ways to go," Powell said. "He's got some talent, but he's got a tough job. I'm 40 years old and I'm trying to raise three kids. I can't imagine being 20 and trying to raise one, so Ray Ray's got a tough job."

Powell said there's one major issue that's keeping Ray Ray from finding his groove on the field.

"Ray Ray's biggest problem is total focus," he said. "All those peripheral things that take place, whether they're on the field things or off the field things, he's just got to focus on football as much as he can. But Ray Ray is going to help us on offense and on special teams, too, I imagine."

SPILLER UPDATE: Spiller is still running track and when it is over sometime in the next few days, he will head home to Lake Butler, Fla., where he will get to spend some quality time with his mother, girlfriend and daughter.

The plans are now for him to return for the second session of summer school. And Powell said he sees no reason why the sophomore won't return to Clemson, despite the speculation to the contrary.

"I don't know if there's something being said to keep perpetuating it, but there's nothing there," he said. "Everything is fine. He's given me not even a faint indication that he won't be back."

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