"It's motivation," Ellington said Monday. "I know I have big shoes to fill."
Those shoes might be that of All-ACC standout C.J. Spiller. The Lake Butler, Fla., native could leave the Clemson program for the NFL after the Gator Bowl and if he does, the Clemson coaches are confident Ellington can come in and give the program some of the things Spiller will take to the next level.
In the past, Powell has described Ellington as a shifty and fast back, who has the potential to do a lot of great things here at Clemson.
"Coach knows a lot about the running back position and he lets me know what I can do to get better," Ellington said. "He has coached me up the way I need to be coached."
When it comes to ability, Ellington doesn't need much coaching.
The No. 24 running back in the nation by Scout.com coming out of high school rushed for 1,822 yards and 24 touchdowns last year for Berkeley High School in Moncks Corner, S.C. The Shrine Bowler and All-State selection also had four other all-purpose touchdowns and finished his senior year with 2,519 all-purpose yards.
Though many, including Ellington himself, thought he might see some action this year, the freshman said redshirting turned out to be the best things for him.
"You get to see James (Davis) and C.J. out there running the ball and the way that they do it. I learned a lot by watching those guys."
Ellington says he learned from watching Spiller that a fast and shifty guy can be a tough runner and he learned how to be a leader from watching Davis and how he carried himself in front of his teammates, his coaches, the media and the fans.
"I picked up a little bit from each guy and I will try to use it next year when it is my turn," he said.
Ellington also said Spiller has taught him how to be and carry himself as a playmaker.
"He tells me to play football the way you know how to play it," the freshman said. "I take that to heart and I just try to use it out there."
He says Davis likes to joke around a lot, but when he messes up, the senior is the first to get on him and tries to teach him what he is doing wrong or did wrong at the time.
"Every time I mess up, he gets on me, but that's him being a good leader and I appreciate it," Ellington said.
And it looks like that will help Tiger fans appreciate Clemson's next big thing.