Will Zac Brooks play?

CLEMSON - There is little doubt as to whether or not Zac Brooks will avoid a redshirt during his first season on campus.

He will play, according to Dabo Swinney.

For much of preseason camp, Brooks has been sidelined with an injury and a concussion. He resumed practicing with the team earlier this week and participated in Wednesday's situational scrimmage.

Brooks certainly has some work to go before he's able to figure into the mix, but he will play this year.

No doubt about it.

"Right now, I wouldn't say that I would count on him," Swinney said. "I wouldn't game plan for him right now. He hasn't earned that. What he has earned is an opportunity to compete for playing time, and we'll certainly give him that."

There will come a point when Brooks will be asked to have a role. Whatever capacity that is has not been determined.

"He's got to play," Swinney said. "We've got to have Zac Brooks ready to go."

If Brooks was to redshirt this season, Andre Ellington, D.J. Howard and Roderick McDowell would be the only scholarship running backs available this season.

A trio of running backs would be too close for comfort, particularly over the span of 13 or 14 games.

Also keep in mind Ellington hasn't made it through a full season as a starter 100 percent healthy.

"It's hard to get through the season with three guys," Swinney said. "[Brooks] could help us on special teams. I think, at some point, he's going to be a change-up guy and can do some things for us in the passing game. He's not there yet. But we certainly have to get him ready to play."

Swinney added, "The plan is to get him some experience this year...come January we [would] have two backs that have played at all. Whatever experience he gets this year will be an incredible value."

Swinney likened the situation to last year with DeShawn Williams, Grady Jarrett and Josh Watson. "They played. They didn't play a ton as freshmen. They had veteran guys in front of them," Swinney said. "That experience they had last year is priceless for where they are right now. It's a big reason they are where they are right now."

Brooks, a former four-star wide receiver, was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Arkansas in the 2012 recruiting class.

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