Healthy Andre Ellington thriving in Clemson's backfield

Andre Ellington runs up the middle in the fourth quarter.

Photo by Mark Crammer

Andre Ellington runs up the middle in the fourth quarter.

Ellington looking for more

None

— Out of sight, out of mind.

That’s the approach Andre Ellington is taking regarding his sometimes-fragile health.

Halfway through his senior season, Clemson’s senior tailback is fully healthy and enjoying a standout season. He averages 99.5 yards rushing per game, best in the ACC, and is on a 1200-yard rushing pace for the regular season.

So why give leg injuries any thought?

“I feel pretty good,” Ellington said this week. “(Injuries) are some things I haven’t been thinking about. I feel like if I think about them, they might happen. I just go out and play the game.”

A year ago, Ellington rushed for 1,178 yards in 13 games despite being hampered by hamstring and ankle injuries. His sophomore season lasted only eight full games after he suffered ligament damage and a broken toe which required offseason surgery.

He decided to stay for his senior season to show NFL teams he can be healthy and become more of a receiving threat out of the backfield. Through six games, he has seven receptions for 137 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown pass thrown by wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

A year ago, Ellington had 22 receptions, but for only 109 yards, less than five yards per catch. This year, he’s averaging 22.8 yards per catch.

“I hope it continues through the season,” he said. “I hope I can stay healthy and continue to catch the ball a little bit more.”

Clemson’s staff has been very cognizant of Ellington’s workload. In preseason practice, they limited his reps, and he says that trend has continued in the regular season, noting that he, Rod McDowell, D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks have shared practice work. He also takes regular trips to the post-practice cold tub, which he feels keeps his legs fresh.

“I’ve just been taking care of my body, week-in and week-out,” he said.

Timothy improving: Sophomore right tackle Gifford Timothy used the open week to get a sore left knee healthy. Timothy has been bothered by the knee since undergoing August surgery to repair a meniscus tear; he aggravated scar tissue at the end of a season-opening win against Auburn and missed most of the next two weeks recovering.

“It was a little sore after Georgia Tech,” he said, “but I did a lot of work on it (during the off) week. I worked on my quad (muscle) to get it stronger. It’s been a huge help to get a break for the weekend and kind of relax a little bit.”

Timothy said strengthening the quad muscle will help stabilize his entire knee.

“That was the main focal point where I needed to be stronger,” he said. “Bending it, moving it faster all relied on the quad. Everything needed to be stronger around the knee, because when your ligaments are messed up, you need to get everything else stronger.”

Timothy has had his share of struggles, but has mostly held his own against talented ends like Florida State’s Bjoern Werner. He said experience has made a huge difference for him.

“I think we’ve done a lot of growing up (on the offensive line), especially me,” he said. “This is my first year getting some playing time, some starts. I’m excited about where we are and that we have a whole half of a season to even get better and stronger and more cohesive as a unit.”

Secondary shuffle: Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said that freshman Travis Blanks will see more time at safety this week, praising his efforts against Georgia Tech. This week’s depth chart lists Blanks as a co-starter at “Sam” linebacker/nickel back with junior Quandon Christian. Sophomore corner Garry Peters and senior strong safety Jonathan Meeks are the only defined secondary starters; seniors Rashard Hall and Xavier Brewer are listed as either/or options at free safety and Brewer and sophomore Bashaud Breeland are listed the same way at corner. Brewer told reporters this week that he is spending most of his time at cornerback.

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