When Dabo Swinney looks at Germone Hopper, he thinks of Andre Ellington.
Five years ago, the Tigers went into Ellington's freshman season expecting him to play. He prepared, he learned the playbook, he dressed, and for the first two-thirds of the season he stood on the sideline, helmet in hand, waiting for his call.
In the end, Ellington's calling was to wait until next year.
Clemson reaped the benefits of Ellington's redshirt season last fall, when he led the Tigers in rushing and earned first-team All-ACC honors.
Swinney envisions Hopper's career unfolding along the same lines.
A dynamic playmaker as a receiver and kick returner at Berry Academy in Charlotte, Hopper was the only wide receiver signee in Clemson's 2012 recruiting class.
He was, his coaches quickly realized, almost too good not to play as a freshman.
But they bit the bullet and redshirted him anyway, and Swinney says both Hopper and the Tigers' receiving corps are better off for it.
"The redshirt year was big, and he's sort of the classic example of where we've come as a program," Swinney said. "A couple of years ago, he probably would have started for us as a freshman, and we were able to hold him.
"We basically got him ready for the first half of the season, which, to put in perspective, is exactly what we did with Andre Ellington. When Andre came in as a freshmen, people have no idea how close he was to playing. But it sure was nice having Andre back for that fifth year, and it was good for him, too.
"It's the same thing with G-Hop. This guy is a really talented player, and it turned out being a great situation for him. He doesn't even look like the same guy. He's been able to physically and mentally mature way more, and that's just due to the fact that we had good depth at the position."
Hopper, who will wear No. 5 for the Tigers, was rated as a Top 100 player nationally by both ESPN and Rivals, and among the top dozen receivers, as a senior at Berry Academy. A U.S. Army All-American and Shrine Bowl selection, he rushed for more than 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns during his four seasons of high school football. He returned five kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns as a senior, and finished his career as his high school's leader in rushing yards, kickoff return yards and punt return yards.
While Swinney knows Hopper could have helped out last year, "we just didn't want to waste a year if we could get by with it."
"I think it's good for him in that it will give him more options down the road," Swinney said. "He's got a chance to be a really good player. He did some great things all year on scout team."