Harper More Than Short-Yardage Back

CLEMSON - Arriving on campus at a solid 233 pounds, it would be easy to characterize freshman running back Jamie Harper as Clemson's answer in short-yardage situations. So far however, he's been much more.

Harper led all running backs in rushing during Saturday's scrimmage with 36 yards on eight carries, but those numbers only tell part of the story. He also had the biggest play of the day, returning a kickoff 60 yards against the first-team kick coverage team.

But it wasn't the stats that told the story after the team had finished its first scrimmage in Death Valley.

It was the rest of the team.

"He's explosive," said team captain and preseason ACC Player of the Year QB Cullen Harper.

"He looked real good out there today," said senior running back James Davis. "He's big but he is quick."

"He looked good," quipped Tommy Bowden. "He probably had the biggest play out there today."

While Harper, himself, said he had a productive showing in his first college scrimmage, he's also quick to admit there's still plenty of work to be done between now and the season opener against Alabama.

"I came out here today just to show what I had as far as my skill level but there's still a lot I have to work on: picking up the plays quick enough and the blitzes and making sure I make an intelligent read. Other than that I did a good job running the ball."

The play of the day for the freshman came on the long kickoff return, when he put a move on Jacoby Ford, one of the fastest players on the team, before heading up field.

Ford was running full speed when Harper made a spin move to get past him.

"To be honest with you, we all had the same color jersey on so I thought he was blocking for me and then he kind of hit me and I was thinking in my head, 'why did he hit me?' Then I just kept running.

"I made a mistake on that play because I was running with the ball in the wrong hand and then the ball was knocked out but I think I showed what I could do."

Harper, who arrived on campus in July at 233 pounds is naturally thought of as the big running back Clemson's offense has needed in the last couple of years.

So far, however, he's proven to be much more.

At his size, he's a natural option for Clemson in short-yardage and goal line situations considering he's about 25 pounds bigger than James Davis, 30 pounds bigger than C.J. Spiller, and 50 pounds larger than fellow freshman Andre Ellington.

However, he's also shown surprising quickness, creating big plays in the running game, giving the Tigers another option behind Clemson's Thunder and Lightning backfield.

"The thing you like about him is when he hits the pile, the pile moves backwards," Bowden said. "That's kind of what we were hoping for and that's what he's done through the first week of practice."

After Saturday's scrimmage Harper said he'll be much more than just a short-yardage back during his time at Clemson, even though that could be where he gets a majority of his carries this year.

"I can do much more than just short-yardage, as I showed today but whatever role they need me to play I have no problem doing it," he said. "I'll do whatever I can do to help this team win. That's the bottom line."

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