September 18, 2014

Inside The Numbers: D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks

D.J. HowardYou just thought there were question marks surrounding the running back position at Clemson last year.  This year there really is.

I was fairly confident that Rod McDowell would have the type of year he had in 2014 – my eyes and the data said he would be fine. Not C.J. Spiller-like, but a plus back and that’s just what McDowell was.  Now, McDowell’s graduation leaves a murky situation behind as we look at the first two of 7 backs vying for carries.

How long does D.J. Howard remain at the top of the depth chart?  Your guess is as good as mine, but that’s where he currently resides.  Howard had a solid freshman year, averaging over 5 yards a carry, but has fought injuries the last two seasons.

Is it me or does Howard seem to play slower than the 4.5 speed listed out of high school and get caught up in the wash a fair amount to this point in his career?  Can Howard overcome that with enough carries and a bigger sample size and will he end the season as the Tigers #1 running back?

I foresee a log jam in which no one completely owns the position, at least for the first half of the season.

Breakout Season: 160 carries, 699 yards, 6 TDs

Bust: 40 carries, 175 yards, 1 TD

2014 Outlook: 125 carries, 546 yards, 3 TDs

Zac Brooks GeorgiaZac Brooks has had a somewhat star-crossed two seasons at Clemson.  In 2012, a year that the majority thought he would benefit from a redshirt, Brooks was used in mop up duty and a year of eligibility was used on 26 garbage time carries.

Last season Brooks was scheduled to be an integral part of the offense and had between 5 and 7 carries in all but Georgia (3) and Syracuse (9) through 8 games before being injured and only getting 1 more carry for the season as he finished with 246 yards on 48 carries.

Brooks has shown flashes as his 4.9 career average (74 carries) attests, but I don’t see him as a featured back and have questions about his ability to stay healthy. Additionally, a good chunk of Brooks’ carries were in non-competitive situations, making him an unknown despite entering his junior season.

Similar to last season, I believe this is a crucial year in the evolution of Zac Brooks at Clemson considering the stable of running backs vying for playing time.  It may be 2014 or never for Zac Brooks at Clemson.

Breakout Season: 125 carries, 616 yards, 4TDs

Bust: 40 carries, 197 yards, 1 TD

2014 Outlook: 75 carries, 370 yards, 3 TDs

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