CLEMSON — Recently, Dabo Swinney invited a motivational speaker to talk with Clemson’s roster.
The speaker challenged everyone to find a single word that would define their vision for the 2012 season.
Swinney said the words ran the gamut: faith, responsible, drive, toughness, perseverance.
Andre Ellington’s word, according to Swinney? Relentless.
It’s a fitting choice. When Ellington returned for his senior season of college football, he did so knowing he had plenty left to accomplish.
In three years as a Clemson tailback, Ellington has yet to play a full, healthy season. His head coach thinks he can do so this fall, with the potential for a great final act in Death Valley.
“What he looks like is he’s got the eye of the tiger,” Swinney said. “I’m praying the good Lord will keep him healthy. I think he’s ready for a special year if we can keep him between the lines.”
Ellington rushed for 1,178 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall despite being hampered by hamstring and ankle injuries.
This fall, he’s focused on showing NFL scouts that he is a well-rounded back. Ellington has 45 career receptions for 273 yards and one touchdown, including 22 receptions for 108 yards as a junior.
This summer, working on pass-catching was a huge focus.
“Me and Tajh (Boyd) stayed out extra, working on pass plays we had, running my routes, trying to be more crisp,” he said. “Just improving my hands.”
Kick returns are important, too; he has 18 career returns for 464 yards, with five returns for 131 yards as a junior.
Monday, Ellington said he returned kicks with a group that included wide receivers Martavis Bryant, Jaron Brown, Charone Peake and Germone Hopper.
“Hopefully I’ll be back there with (Sammy Watkins when his suspension ends),” Ellington said. “I want to have that part of my game when scouts come around to check me out. I want to have that in my resume.”
Something guaranteed to be in Ellington’s resume this fall? Work out of the Pistol formation. It’s a new wrinkle in Chad Morris’ offense which features the tailback lining up directly behind the quarterback, pioneered by the University of Nevada with smashing results for the ground game.
“It’s an advantage for the offense. It’s not an off-balance set,” Ellington said. “It’s hard for defenses to prepare for. It’s an advantage because you can go right or left, and the defense doesn’t know which way you’re going to go, pre-snap.”