How do you replace C.J. Spiller?

CLEMSON - The sting of losing C.J. Spiller in 2010 will be dulled somewhat by having a pair of running backs ready to help.

But of course, both Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington, the two players expected to share the majority of Spiller's carries, have big shoes to fill.

Spiller, who was named the ACC Player of the Year in 2009 figures to be first-round draft choice after recording 2,680 all-purpose yards and being named a unanimous first-team All-American.

But the hope is the explosive plays Clemson fans became so accustomed to over the past four seasons from Spiller won't suddenly disappear from the Tigers' program, just because Spiller's gone.

They just may not be as long or explosive.

"When C.J. got into the open, he would score," Clemson running backs coach Andre Powell said. "I don't foresee us doing that as often. Last year, we'd have maybe one play for 50 yards. This year, maybe we'll have a couple of plays for 30… I think we'll be pretty good."

Offensive coordinator Billy Napier doesn't see it as "replacing Spiller," but he is optimistic given the returning talent in Clemson's offensive backfield.

And with good reason- it's not exactly like there's a dearth of talent. Remember, Andre Ellington came to Clemson as a four-star running back, while Jamie Harper was rated the No. 5 ground gainer in the nation and rated five stars.

"I don't think you replace him," he said. "C.J. is one of those guys that are few and far between. Around 25-30 years from now, they'll still be talking about him. I do think we have some young, talented kids that are capable."

This spring, Ellington, Harper and Roderick McDowell (to a lesser extent), will begin the unenviable task of following one of the most decorated players in school history.

"Those guys are eager to prove themselves…they've got a lot of pride," Powell said. "They want to go out and prove it."

Ellington and Harper combined to rush for over 900 yards and eight touchdowns last season. McDowell redshirted.

"If (Ellington) had the same amount of carries C.J. had, he'd have 2,000 yards. He averaged almost eight yards a carry," Powell said.

Powell went on to talk about both players and how they could fit into Clemson's offense this coming season:

"Jamie Harper may be the smartest football player I've been around. They don't come any smarter. Jamie Harper is a tough dude. He's surprisingly fast, probably faster than Andre, but not nearly as quick.

"Andre is very quick. He can accelerate. He has the ability to get himself into the smallest holes. He's got a real good understanding of, when you get into a small hole, how to turn your shoulders, turn your body and make yourself smaller. Andre is probably the most disciplined runner that I've been around…that's why he has such big runs."

Powell believes both are capable of doing every job that's asked of a Clemson running back, no matter the circumstance. There are situations, which he didn't expound upon, that Ellington is better at than Harper, and vice versa.

Clemson, of course, will also add two more running backs to the roster when Demont Buice and D.J. Howard arrive this summer.

"We tell them to prepare like they're going to play. Along the way, we do things to try and get them tutored up, so when they get here in July, they have some understanding," Powell said.

Powell said Buice and/or Howard would play if the coaches feel one or both is able to make an impact on offense or special teams. Top Stories