Defensive back was Clemson's greatest need for the 2013 recruiting cycle.
Running back wasn't far behind.
Dabo Swinney and his staff took a disciplined approach to restocking the position.
An unusual situation developed early during the recruiting process when a pair of highly-rated backs - Jae'lon Oglesby from Daniel High in Central, S.C. and Dalvin Cook from Miami, Fla. - committed to Clemson's 2014 class. Both are currently ranked as four-star prospects by Rivals, with Cook rated among the top 25 players in the nation.
That's good for the future, but no help for next fall.
Clemson will work this spring with just three scholarship running backs - none of them a proven starter.
Rising senior Rod McDowell is the leader heading into the spring. After being stuck in third or fourth position on the depth chart for his first three years at Clemson, 'Hot Rod' stepped up in a big way last fall, providing a potent backup and a change of pace for Andre Ellington.
McDowell, who was rated as one of the state's top prospects when he signed with the Tigers out of Sumter, S.C., displayed a slashing style, subtle cutting moves in tight quarters, a nose for the goal line, and speed to spare.
He'll be challenged in the spring by D.J. Howard, who began last fall with a head-start on McDowell, but who ended the season third in the pecking order. Howard has strengths of his own. He shows a tough, downhill running style, a readiness to hit a hole, and the ability to take contact, shrug it off, and get extra yardage...and the resiliency to get up and do it again on the next play.
Third in line is Zac Brooks. He came into the program as the state of Arkansas' No. 1 prep player, attracted to Clemson by Chad Morris' offense. The coaches chose to play Brooks last fall, but his touches, and impact, were minimal.
Nevertheless, Swinney believes Brooks has a bright future with the Tigers. He's working on becoming a more physical runner, and if he improves his fundamentals enough to get onto the field consistently, then he possesses the pass-catching skills to be a dynamic yardage producer.
Joining the crew this summer will be Tyshon Dye and Wayne Gallman - two players recruited with a purpose by Morris and Swinney.
Swinney declared a first-come/first-served policy with the pool of running backs Clemson targeted for 2013. Gallman committed early, and was steadfast in his decision from start to finish. The Tigers came very close to getting a commitment from Derrick Green of Richmond, Va. - rated by many as the No. 1 back in the nation - after he visited for the Tigers' Orange-White spring game. Instead, he decided to hold off.
Soon thereafter, Dye committed to the Tigers over an offer from Georgia, and Clemson shut down its recruiting at the running back spot. Shut out of Clemson's backfield, Green remained uncommitted until the final days of the 2013 recruiting cycle, and then signed with Michigan.
With Dye and Gallman, Morris believes he can make his 'smash-mouth spread' more than a catchy phrase.
Swinney envisions both backs playing at close to 220 pounds, giving the Tigers a backfield element they haven't had since Jamie Harper.
Both Dye and Gallman display a blue-collar attitude and a 'mean streak' once they get the football in their hands. Gallman might well be considered a linebacker entrusted with the football, a runner much in the Raymond Priester style; Dye has similar toughness, as well as breakaway speed.
How will it all shake out after spring practice and fall camp? Swinney has no idea. But he's optimistic about whatever options present themselves.
"Right now we've only got three, so we'll just have to see," Swinney said. "It's way up in the air. We'll just have to see where we are once Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye get in here and get through camp, there's a lot of water to go under the bridge before we can make any decisions.
"Backs tend to get banged up and nicked up. Hot Rod is our senior, D.J. our junior, and then Zac. So it's going to be hard to keep the freshmen off the field.
"It's not a decision we have to make right now. But I'm just glad we've got 'em. They're both very physical young men who are excited about their opportunity to be here and see what they can do."