CLEMSON — When Andre Ellington announced he was returning for his senior season, an underlying reason was that he had yet to showcase his considerable abilities for a full season.
As a sophomore, Ellington rushed for 686 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, but played in only eight games before a foot injury effectively ended his season.
Last season, he missed only one game, but battled hamstring and ankle injuries virtually throughout.
What he managed to do, however, shows his potential.
Ellington still rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, adding 22 receptions for 109 yards.
He is one of the ACC’s best backs, and one of Clemson’s most valuable players. He checks in at No.3, in fact, on our ongoing list of Clemson’s 20 most valuable players.
Ellington enters his senior season ranked 10th on Clemson’s all-time list in rushing yards and tied for 10th in touchdowns. He reached 1,000 rushing yards in 151 carries, the second-fewest carries a Clemson back needed to reach that mark, nine behind C.J. Spiller.
He’s been a second-team All-ACC selection the past two years; by Rivals.com in 2010 and by Phil Steele and the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (which selects the ACC’s official all-league teams) in 2011.
He is a versatile, athletic force in Clemson’s backfield, capable of finding a crease and going for 80 yards and a touchdown on any given play.
A year ago, his 1,418 all-purpose yards tied for 10th in school history.
Ellington arrived at Clemson as the nation’s No.44 overall prospect and its No.6 tailback prospect, according to ESPN.com. Rivals.com named him the No.5 all-purpose back, and Scout.com rated him the nation’s No.24 tailback prospect.
After redshirting in 2008 behind James Davis and C.J. Spiller, he quickly proved his worth as one of the Tigers’ best offensive weapons.
With Clemson’s thin backfield, thanks to Mike Bellamy’s departure for academic reasons, he is also one of their most irreplaceable pieces. If Ellington goes down, sophomore D.J. Howard, junior Rod McDowell and freshman Zac Brooks are the only real options.
All three are nice pieces, but none have his combination of explosiveness, athleticism and experience.
He should be one of the best backs in the ACC, if not the nation, this fall.
And he is clearly one of Clemson’s most valuable assets.