Harper, Ellington in focus for spring

How much weight has Jamie Harper already lost with spring practice less than a week away? Where will Rendrick Taylor be playing this spring? Read on to find out the answers!

One thing is for certain this spring for Clemson running backs Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington - they will get a lot of work. Clemson running backs coach Andre Powell says he expects to see both running backs get significant reps with the first team offense when spring practice starts on March 9.

"Those two guys are the focal point," Powell said. "We have to get them to the level as to where they can function with ease within the system, and feel comfortable communicating with the guys on the field and play carefree instead of thinking."

In other words, he doesn't necessarily need them to play like C.J. Spiller; he just wants them to be able to think like he does.

"They are both going to play because they are both talented," Powell said. "We are always trying to put the best 11 guys on the field and I'm not for sure that in most situations Harper and Ellington may be the best 11 in addition to C.J. So who knows what you are going to see.

"Who knows what Billy (Napier) is going to draw up? There might be some situations where you could see all three tailbacks in the game at one time."

Rising sophomore running back Jamie Harper is already down to 224 pounds.
The Tigers already know what they get in Spiller. The junior, who surprised everyone when he announced his intentions to stay in school and finish his college career in January, is considered one of the more explosive players in college football.

He was a first-team All-ACC player as a specialist last year when he led the ACC in all-purpose running with 1,770 yards. He has a Clemson record 4,908 all-purpose yards and needs just 921 to become the ACC's career leader.

Spiller holds 10 Clemson records, including the most touchdown plays in a career of 50 yards or more with 12 and has six career touchdown plays of at least 80 yards, also a Clemson record. He has 30 career touchdowns, fifth in school history.

With that, Spiller will do very little this spring as the coaching staff hopes to create some depth at the tailback spot now that James Davis has graduated to the NFL.

"We will just split the reps. One day, one guy may get a few more with the ones and one day a guy will get a few more with the twos," Powell said.

"We will try to get them as many reps as we can that are reasonable without getting them hurt."

Powell has been pleased with both of his young running backs through the winter. Harper has lost 14 pounds and is down to 224 pounds - just about where Powell wants him to be - while Ellington has worked on getting stronger and faster.

"Harper just needs work. He has lots and lots of tools and God given ability," Powell said. "He just needs reps. He has lost some weight so he is moving better. He was moving good to start so obviously we are expecting big things out of him.

Redshirt freshman Andre Ellington has drawn rave reviews as a scout team running back.
"Andre Ellington has lots of talent. Both kids are bright and both kids are into football so the expectations are high."

Ellington's instincts also have Powell expecting good things. The Clemson coaching staff is hoping the freshman will give the Tigers a nice alternative for Spiller, when the All-ACC running back has to take a breather or two.

"I feel good about him," Powell said. "I think he is a talented kid. He has lots of talent and it is different than Jamie. I think we are going to be awfully proud of that kid before it is all said and done.

"He is so sudden. His change of direction is so great and he has really good ball skills. He is tough and he is smart."

Rendrick Taylor will also be back in fold this spring after sitting last season out. The fifth-year senior, along with Spiller, will give the Tigers some much needed experience and leadership in the backfield, while the younger players mature.

"Rendrick may get some reps. We are going to train him," Powell said. "He is a big and athletic guy so we are going to see what he can do. We are going to try and find his niche and see where he can best help the team.

"Billy has a good plan for personnel and we have talked about it. We are going to try and mix and match and put guys in position to make plays and try to get numbers so our guys can do what they do best and not try and force a square peg into a round hole."

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