CLEMSON – There are a few things you can’t shake Dabo Swinney from feeling about the 2014 season.
The running back position as a strength – despite losing a third 1,000-yard rusher in as many seasons – is one of them.
“It’s been good. I think we’ve got a really good group there," the Tigers coach said after practice Monday. "I think that’s going to be a strength for us. That may sound crazy, but that’s going to be a strength for us. We’re going to be a pretty good at running back.”
Tiger o-line mixing and matching
Emerging through six spring practices has been senior D.J. Howard, who’s been sidelined or hampered due to injury much of his career.
He averaged his career-best in yards per carry (5.6) and totaled his top rushing total (230) as a redshirt freshman in 2011.
Last season, the Alabama native was third on the Tigers in carries (57), managing just 3.7 per on them, and aided by a 75-yard swing pass touchdown against Wake Forest, had a career-best eight catches for 123 yards.
“I tell you D.J. Howard has been outstanding,” Swinney said. “We need some leadership at that position. It’s good see to him have a good spring to this point. He and Zac and C.J. (Davidson) and (Wayne) Gallman have split the ones and twos. Zac (Brooks) and D.J. have got the majority of the ones. C.J. has rolled in there a pretty good bit. Gallman has too. Those four guys have been the primary focus.
“We go fast and play a lot of snaps so they’re all getting their share of touches. That’s one of the things we do. We chart all of the touches. That’s one of the things I look at is how many times they’ve touched the ball in spring ball. That’s the only way I can evaluate them.”
Brooks had a scope on his shoulder after missing time late last year. Davidson emerged out of nowhere to punch in four scores.
A redshirt last year, the 6-1 200-pound Gallman has been one of the standouts of the spring.
Joining the fray in fall camp will be Thomasville, Ga. native Adam Choice (5-10, 205), a dual-threat quarterback in high school who rushed for over 3,000 yards with 35 touchdowns as an upperclassman.
“He’s one of my favorite players and favorite signees that we have,” said Swinney. “He’s a phenomenal person. Great family, just fully committed to being great. That’s just his DNA. That’s how he’s been his whole life. Guys like that don’t usually change. That’s who they are. He’s a special runner with the ball in his hand.
"Man, can he run the football. Has great vision and great strength. He’s durable. Has tremendous success his whole career. He’s a big-time winner. Another smart guy, I just think he’s a great fit for what we do.”