A unanimous four-star prospect out of high school, Zac Brooks didn’t redshirt last season, but he also didn’t have the year expected – by his standards especially.
The rising sophomore running back played only 65 snaps, fourth on the depth chart, averaging 4.6 yards per on 26 carries.
“I’d probably grade (2012) as a low ‘B’ – high ‘C’ just because I didn’t play like I expected to out of high school,” Brooks said. “But it was a little different for me and I didn’t know how I was supposed to step up.”
Speed of the game, although clichéd he says, was a contributing factor.
“You go from being the fastest to the top-20 fastest,” Brooks said. “Everybody out there got speed. It’s just a big-time change of pace.”
Brooks working on weight to improve
And that changes running-style.
“You got to understand instead of running to the sideline all the time – you got to actually hit the hole and burst through the hole,” he said. “You can’t always escape to the sidelines. It was a big adaptation for me.”
Pass protection also, or the lack thereof, is what keeps many a talented tailback off the field, and for Brooks, that was no different.
“It was at the beginning, but as the year went on I got used to it,” the Jonesboro, Ark. product said. “(I) started recognizing it better, then they switched it up on me again. I’m still not where I need to be with my blocking assignments, but I will get there.”
How does he get there?
“I just have to become more knowledgeable in the offense,” said Brooks. “And when I start to get more confident in the offense, then those calls will be a lot easier for me.”
With Andre Ellington out of the picture, Brooks is one of three scholarship backs competing for playing time this spring – senior Rod McDowell and junior D.J. Howard the competition.
But if he listens closely, Brooks can hear the footsteps of two talented, sizable running backs coming this fall, Tyshon Dye (6-0 200) and Wayne Gallman (6-1 195).
He came to Clemson around 180 pounds on the scale, and has boosted that to 190 in a little over a year on campus. Brooks’ goal for August? 200, but it won’t be easy.
“I’ve been lean all my life,” said Brooks. “I don’t know if it’s going to come with age. I’ve been eating the way I’m supposed to. I’ve been working out the way I’m supposed to.”
He hopes to have the advantage the extra size brings when taking on defenders this fall.
“I got to get my weight up,” Brooks said. “We got some nice-size linebackers and those guys are strong. With me coming in at 190 and they’re sitting at 230, they’re benching twice as much as I’m benching.
“That’s a matchup they’re going to stand me up every time.”
Working this summer, Brooks says he will hit the weight room hard for those 10 pounds.
“I just have to keep working hard to get to my max,” he said. “I know the potential that I have. I don’t think I’ve put forth everything I can give yet.
“Trying to work so I can put forth everything that I have.”