Time ticking on spring ball, running back competition 'anybody's game'

Clemson's D.J. Howard and Alex Goode walk on to the field for a spring practice.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's D.J. Howard and Alex Goode walk on to the field for a spring practice.

Clemson’s running back trio has four more days to impress before the long break until August for fall camp.

Redshirt junior D.J. Howard says the position battle is wide-open – up against senior Rod McDowell and sophomore Zac Brooks for Andre Ellington’s old spot.

“It’s a toss-up,” Howard said. “It’s anybody’s game. It’s a competition thing. We get out here and we do what we’re coached to do and just have fun with it.”

While McDowell and Brooks have drawn praise this spring, the Lincoln, Ala. native has received his share of challenges from offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

"D.J. is a guy who really needs to come on," Morris said towards start of practice. "His fall last year wasn't nearly as productive as the year before.”

Howard working on flexibility

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Howard, on six less carries than the year before, averaged 4.1 yards per rush, after hitting 5.7 per in 2011.

Factoring in those lower numbers, he missed time with both shoulder and ankle injuries last season.

“Last year wasn’t a good year with the injuries,” Howard said. “(Morris is) challenging me to be the guy he saw from the previous year to this year. So, it’s a challenge, but I also challenge myself.

“I know last season wasn’t the season I wanted so I challenge myself each day.”

On a day when the offense sputtered, the Lincoln, Ala. product had one of the better stat lines from Monday’s scrimmage – leading in rushing yards (39) – averaging 7.8 yards per carry and being the only player with multiple touchdowns, scoring twice in goal-line offense situations.

“This being our last full scrimmage (before the spring game) – coming in seeing it was a little shaky – we needed a spark so I just got in and did what I could,” said Howard.

The tailback competition takes center stage in Saturday’s Orange-White game (4:00 p.m.), but the true battle might come this fall with two four-star tailback signees coming in (Wayne Gallman, Grayson HS; Tyshon Dye, Elbert Co. HS).

That’s something, however, that’s far off to the redshirt junior.

“We don’t really focus on that,” Howard said. “We focus on the now. We focus on getting ourselves better right now – not really looking to the future. Taking it day by day.”

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Comments » 1

SoCalTiger writes:

Tigers have had a nice string of running backs over the years. I look forward to watching these guys keep the tradition going.

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