With injuries and inexperience behind Andre Ellington, rising senior tailback Rod McDowell finally got his audition last season.
“Hot Rod” didn’t disappoint.
McDowell more than doubled-up his carries (83), yards (450) and scores (5) from the previous two seasons combined, averaging 5.4 yards per attempt.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Friday he expects the redshirt senior “to be the guy to carry the load” this season.
McDowell says he wants to be the third-consecutive Tiger to rush for over 1,000 yards, after Andre Ellington joined an elite Clemson club to do so in back-to-back seasons last year.
“I feel I have a chance to make a statement here,” said McDowell, “and show everybody that no matter what you can go through struggles. Just be patient – be humble…So my motto is just to kick the door open and show everybody Rod McDowell is still here.”
Dabo Swinney said last week McDowell’s running-style is “as strong as a bull,” crediting his close to 20 pounds gained over the course of four-going-into-five years in TigerTown.
He has a similar build to the NFL-bound Ellington (5-9 185), and that’s not the only way the Sumter native hopes to resemble him.
“Just be humble. Just go in there – do the little things right,” McDowell said. “I ain’t got to be the senior and all vocal. Just do what Andre did last year and be vocal on the field and just make plays.
“Show everybody I’m one you can count on.”
McDowell says he focused on “using his weight,” field vision and getting down the finer details of Morris’ offense in the offseason.
He made up 14 percent of the rushing attempts in 2012, and is the second-leading returning rusher behind Clemson signal-caller Tajh Boyd (514 yards).
McDowell had his first double-digit carry games all in a row last season – three of them – to close ACC play, averaging six yards per attempt, and scored all five of his touchdowns in the Tigers’ first six games.
This spring, he competes against redshirt junior D.J. Howard and sophomore Zac Brooks, and in the summer, four-star freshmen Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye join the fray.
McDowell isn’t worried about possibly sharing the load this season though, and would even like to get on the field for kick return duties.
“One thing I always pride myself on is I’m a team player,” McDowell said. “At the end of the day, I’m just going to go in there and contribute and have fun.
“I get my call and I’m going to go in there and do what I’m going to do – no matter what it is. If I have to play return-special teams – if I have to play running back – I’m just going to have fun.”