Perhaps no skill position has more questions surrounding it than running back.
Andre Ellington departs after two + year’s worth of starts and over 1,800 career snaps leaving Rod McDowell as the Tigers most experienced back.
Entering his senior season McDowell has been a career backup, but an outstanding 2012 season in a reserve role has some Clemson fans rethinking McDowell’s value. Whether that translates to a satisfactory starting running back remains to be seen.
D.J. Howard suffered through an injury plagued sophomore season and has only seen 268 snaps over two seasons. Howard is more of a bruiser/pounder and not a breakaway threat on the level of Ellington or even McDowell.
2012 Running Back Experience Final –
At times in 2012 Zac Brooks look over his skis, even against marginal competition, at other times Brooks acquitted himself well. By all accounts Brooks should have redshirted last season, but that was prevented by depth issues at the position. Not everyone agrees with my luke-warm assessment and I’m certainly no football talent scout, but I wonder if Brooks will ever contribute as more than a backup.
One side of this argument is that Brooks was only a true freshman, and I certainly get that angle. Spiller and Davis played as freshmen, Ellington, McDowell and Howard did not. It’s unfair to compare Brooks to the first two and it remains to be seen how he will ultimately compare to the other three.
McDowell’s sudden emergence as a redshirt junior should serve as a cautionary tale – players develop at different rates and Brooks may be a different player when August rolls around.
Not listed above are two 2013 commits that have yet to officially sign with Clemson. Neither are of the Davis/Spiller caliber and potentially face a redshirt in 2013 though depth may save one or both from that fate.