It's not just the shiftiness in space or the hard running between the tackles that's got Swinney excited about the guy who's going to be wearing the No. 25 orange jersey next season.
"He's got an edge to him," Swinney said. "He was running the wildcat, the play was over and one of our defensive ends just cheap shoted him--just jacked him up from behind. (The defensive end) shouldn't have done it, but I didn't say anything.
"His reaction: he was mad. He didn't go over there and pout. He got the guys in the huddle and said, ‘Get to the line. Get to the line.' He didn't know this, but I was watching. He was so ‘let's go'. What a great intangible that is."
McDowell made his Death Valley debut for the Gamecocks last December when he led Sumter High School in the 4-A Division I state championship. And now that his red-shirt season at Clemson is approaching its conclusion a year later, he's starting to look forward to 2010.
"On the field, I've gotten my awareness of the field and players up (since the state championship). That's gotten better. I'm a harder runner now," he said. "What I did in high school was good. Next year, what I do, I'm going to have this stadium jumping."
"(McDowell) has got excellent hands. He's really packed on some weight--gotten bigger and stronger. He's an excellent runner inside and outside," Swinney said. "I'm high on Rod. He's going to be a good player for us." (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)
"(McDowell) has got excellent hands. He's really packed on some weight--gotten bigger and stronger. He's an excellent runner inside and outside," Swinney said. "I'm high on Rod. He's going to be a good player for us."
McDowell arrived on campus at a meager 170 pounds but he's now up to 180 with a higher bench press and squat. Though he's had to sit through the entire season, McDowell said he made the right decision in coming to Clemson. He's pleased with C.J. Spiller's decision to come back for his senior season.
"I get to play behind a Heisman candidate who's All-ACC, All-American--it's been a wonderful experience watching a person like him who's so developed," McDowell said. "I'm just like, wow. I'm playing under C.J. I'm watching this cat every game. He's somebody who can score three different ways. It's overwhelming."
He likes to believe that he'll be that guy who's contributing rushing, receiving and returning.
McDowell thinks he's got a long way to go before he can be on the level that Spiller has elevated his game to.
"Nobody can be compared to C.J. because of the things he does. It's crazy. The only thing I can do is try to get better and get to where he's at right now," he said.
Though Ellington and Jamie Harper have a leg up on him right now, McDowell looks forward to any chance he gets in 2010. He was reassured by watching all three running back have productive seasons.
"Dabo puts athletes on the field…watching our three back rotation this year, it doesn't matter," he said. "I'm going to make plays regardless."