Zac Brooks on playing instead of red shirting
CLEMSON — Zac Brooks knows he’ll get his chance in Clemson’s backfield eventually.
Now is not that time.
The Arkansas native was one of the most-hyped members of the Tigers’ Class of 2012, but he has been virtually invisible as a freshman.
Last week’s 12-carry, 62-yard performance at Duke with a win already salted away was his first offensive carry in six weeks. Brooks has 118 yards on 25 carries, and there are murmurs that this was a freshman season lost behind senior Andre Ellington, junior Rod McDowell and sophomore D.J. Howard.
He doesn’t see it that way.
“It hasn’t been my season yet,” Brooks said this week. “I’ve been real content just being behind Andre and Rod and D.J., learning from them and picking up stuff. Winter’s not going to come in the summertime. There’s a season for everything, a time for everything. My time is coming. I’m good.”
For now, Brooks is happy to gain bulk and experience as an apprentice to the older backs, continuing with No.10 Clemson’s homecoming game with Maryland Saturday.
“I’m not rushing anything,” he said.
Adaptation has defined Brooks’ first collegiate season. He enrolled last January and went through spring practice with Clemson, and was expected to play a role in the offense, especially after former five-star signee Mike Bellamy transferred for academic reasons.
He arrived from Jonesboro, Ark., at 185 pounds, and was 188 when Clemson began preseason practice. Its rigors dropped him back to 180 pounds, and he has struggled to put weight on this fall.
“I knew coming in it was going to be a dramatic change of what I had to learn and things I had to adapt to. I was ready for what I had to do,” he said. “The big thing, I was shocked I couldn’t put on the weight as fast as they wanted me to. The weight just didn’t come so that slowed the process.”
Clemson coaches hope Brooks will weigh 200-205 by next season, but his schedule, he says, is an issue.
“I’ve got to consistently eat,” he said. “My metabolism is so high, I burn quickly, and with my class schedule I don’t have time to eat like that. I’m taking classes for my major and trying to get set up in that. I’ve got to eat when I can.”
Learning Chad Morris’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense also slowed Brooks’ progression.
“I didn’t pick up the protections, and as camp went on, the more in-depth plays got, the more lost I got in schemes,” he said. “Weight played a big part. It could have been big for me if I’d have gotten redshirted, but circumstances happen.”
Coaches are high on Brooks, who they envision as a hybrid back who can catch passes and play a number of different roles. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Brooks could be special after an offseason in the weight room.
For now, he learns from older backs like Ellington about being patient behind the line of scrimmage, and finding the right time to hit the hole.
That’s been a popular theme this fall, but he has no regrets about his collegiate choice.
“It’s like when you’re playing chess or checkers, the table is full and you really don’t know,” he said. “You see a move and know you can jump them a couple of times and you’ve got to make that move. But if you wait the move bypasses, you might never get that opportunity again. I had to make that move, I didn’t want to miss out on something I really wanted.”
Now, he’s willing to wait.
“I’m going to be here, and when it’s my time to be here, I’m going to be here,” Brooks said. “Whatever coach wants me to do, I’m going to do my best at that job.”