Andre Ellington's ankle improving, Dabo Swinney says

Clemson Tigers running back Andre Ellington is tackled by Maryland Terrapins defensive back Dexter McDougle in the third quarter.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson Tigers running back Andre Ellington is tackled by Maryland Terrapins defensive back Dexter McDougle in the third quarter.

Dabo Swinney breaks down GT

Clemson travels to Atlanta for 8 p.m. ...

— Tuesday, Clemson officially listed junior tailback Andre Ellington as questionable for Saturday’s visit to Georgia Tech with a sprained ankle, suffered Saturday against North Carolina.

Wednesday morning, coach Dabo Swinney sounded more optimistic about his availability for this week when asked on the ACC coaches’ teleconference.

“He was able to move around a little bit (at practice Tuesday),” Swinney said. “I expect him to do a little bit more today. I think by 8 (p.m.) Saturday night, he's going to be ready to play.”

Ellington’s status is key to the Tigers’ offensive success. He leads Clemson with 745 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 146 carries, averaging 93.1 yards per game. He had just five yards on seven carries against the Tar Heels, but was coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, including a career-high 212 yards and two scores on 24 carries at Maryland. If Ellington can’t go, redshirt freshman D.J. Howard and true freshman Mike Bellamy would share the backfield load.

Swinney added that junior tight end Dwayne Allen, nursing a painful turf toe injury, “is fine.”

“Just the same deal for him as it’s been,” he said. “That’s why this open date (next week) is going to be great, because we will be able to really get five or six key guys really well and healed up and rested for our stretch run.”

Swinney on Bryant watch list: Swinney was one of 20 coaches named to the watch list for the 2011 Bryant Coach of the Year Award. The award honors former Alabama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant and is given to the national coach of the year. Five to 10 finalists will be announced in December, and the award is given on Jan. 19, 2012. Swinney and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer are the ACC representatives; South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is also on the list.

Watkins added to Maxwell list: Freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins also made a watch list Wednesday; he was added to the list for the Maxwell Award, given to college football’s top player. Watkins has 54 receptions for 819 yards and 9 touchdowns and can become the ACC’s all-time freshman leader in all three categories Saturday. He is averaging 173.9 all-purpose yards per game.

Sobeski stepping up: Clemson has developed a time-share in its long-snapper positions. Phillip Fajgenbaum emerged late last season as the primary snapper for both field goals and punts, but when he suffered a shoulder injury that limited him, Swinney and special teams coordinator Danny Pearman gave Michael Sobeski an opportunity to snap for field goals, and he has held down the job the past three weeks.

Sobeski was the snapper at Dorman High School, a key recruiting ground for Clemson; wide receivers Charone Peake and Adam Humphries, as well as starting left guard Brandon Thomas, graduated from Dorman. Sobeski’s father is Dorman’s trainer.

“Sobeski has done an excellent job,” Swinney said. “Fajgenbaum is our starter on punts, and he was actually doing both. He got banged up a little bit and we really had nobody else with any experience so we went ahead and gave Sobeski the opportunity to get some experience against BC, and he's just really done a great job for us.

“It's really helped us because we have really developed some depth with our snappers and we have two guys with game experience and they can focus on the short snap or the long snap. It's been really good.”

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