Post spring insider: Fullbacks

CLEMSON - Believe it or not, the fullback is indeed back in the lineup for the Clemson Tigers.

In fact, head coach Dabo Swinney made it a point this spring to make his team more physical at the point of attack and one of the ways he has done that is by bringing the I-formation back to Frank Howard Field.

For years Clemson lived off the I-formation as fullbacks like Kevin Mack, Tracy Johnson, Chris Lancaster and Wesley McFadden rumbled over opposing defensive tackles and linebackers from the early to the late 1980s and then handed punishing blocks to the ends to free up tailbacks like Cliff Austin, Kenny Flowers, Terrence Flagler and Terry Allen. There were also players such as Howard Hall and Tony Kennedy in the early 1990s that did the same.

But as the spread formation became more popular the fullback position slowly faded away in the conventional world of college football. The position, in a sense, has slowly returned to the game, but not in the way that it was used back in the Tigers' glory years.

The fullback position will not totally be used like it was under Danny Ford, but it will be used in a way that isn't just a hybrid position from the tight end spot. Let's face it, is Chad Diehl really a tight end?

Diehl isn't the kind of player who will carry the ball 10 or 11 times a game either, but he will be one heck of a lead blocker for C.J. Spiller.

Chad Diehl (6-foot-2, 250, redshirt sophomore, Lyman, S.C.)

Diehl did not carry the ball in the three major scrimmages, but he did catch two passes for 47 yards, both of which went for touchdowns, in the first scrimmage. (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

About: One of the best point of attack blockers on the team. The Tigers worked a lot on the I-formation this spring with Diehl being the leader blocker. While he did not carry the ball in the three major scrimmages, he did catch two passes for 47 yards, both of which went for touchdowns, in the first scrimmage. He also caught a 43-yard pass from Kyle Parker in the flats as a safety man and then rumbled the rest of the way for a touchdown. That was the first touchdown Diehl scored – in high school or college – in his life. He later scored on a four-yard pass from Parker on a play-action fake from the I-formation.

The positives: Diehl is one of the hardest hitters on the team, which is a big reason why the defense will use him as wedge breaker at linebacker in goal line situations this fall. In one scrimmage, he leveled Sadat Chambers as the lead blocker to clear the path for a Jamie Harper touchdown. The coaches also like the way he has improved this spring in catching the ball.

The negatives: He still has to work on his hands. Though they are improved, consistency remains an issue. Other than that, there are very little faults in Diehl's play. He works hard both on and off the field and few on the team are tougher.

Rendrick Taylor (6-foot-2, 260, redshirt senior, Clio, S.C.)

Taylor is much more versatile than Diehl and when he is in the game at fullback he is a serious threat as a ball carrier. (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

About: Sure, Taylor was listed under the running backs and that's because he is a running back, but he is also a fullback. A lot of you probably don't remember Wesley McFadden was used as a tailback and as a fullback in his Clemson career. Taylor will line up as a fullback in the lead blocker roll from time to time, at least he did in the spring, but he will also line up as a fullback in a power back field formation near the goal line.

The positives: Taylor is much more versatile than Diehl and when he is in the game at fullback he is a serious threat for defenses to worry about, especially with the fullback dive. It will not surprise me to see the Tigers use that play from time to time to throw defenses off. He is also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield. Because of his hands, and the fact he is a former receiver, Clemson will send him in motion at times and try to get him the ball on either wheel routes, in the flats or over the middle.

The negatives: Again, the only concern with Taylor is his ability to stay healthy. If he stays healthy and is used the way I think Dabo Swinney wants to use him then Taylor has a chance to have a very productive season for Clemson.

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