Tony Elliott knows that it's probably unrealistic to expect Clemson's running backs to play an entire season without ever fumbling the football.
But that's the goal for Elliott's Tigers; and when preseason practice begins August 3, he'll be implementing new drills specifically designed to help his players hang onto the football.
"I've definitely got some new drills that I want to use during camp, and going forward," said Elliott during Clemson's kickoff press conference at Cross Creek Plantation in Seneca. "A lot of it involves teaching them how to go to the ground with the ball."
Elliott noted that starting tailback Andre Ellington "carried it 230-something times and fumbled it twice. Now obviously, one of those was the biggest fumble of the season (on the goal line in the Orange Bowl, which West Virginia returned the length of the field for a pivotal touchdown)...
"But something we noticed was that any time Andre's shoulders were not square going to the ground, he opened up opportunities for folks to reach in and pull the ball away."
Elliott believes that focusing on, and practicing, the small, technical details can help make his Tigers a better group of running backs.
"We're going to do more drills in camp, working with those guys on going to the ground and fighting to keep their shoulders square, and counteracting the pressure of the defender trying to pull the ball away," Elliott said.
"You want to put them in those positions as much as possible. At the same time, you don't want to beat those guys up in drill work. So you want to try to think outside the box and recreate those body positions and sensations that they'll feel in the course of the game, without putting them in contact situations."
Upper body and arm strength also comes into play, he said.
"When you look back at Mike Bellamy, he put the ball on the ground four times last season," Elliott said. "Two of those were situations where he reverted back to high school and had the ball away (from his body). The other two were situations where he got hit on the ball by a college defender and he was 178 pounds, and it was just hard to hold onto the ball."