Besides the cornerback position, running backs were a major target in Clemson’s 2013 recruiting cycle. They hauled in a top notch recruit in Mackenzie Alexander, ranked as the No. 2 corner in the nation, so they got that covered.
As far as filling the need for running backs, coach Dabo Swinney was dealt a fortunate, but unhelpful hand for the 2013 season. Two highly regarded running backs committed to Clemson early in the recruiting process (Jae’lon Oglesby and Dalvin Cook) but unfortunately both recruits are a part of the 2014 class. Good for them that they were able to entice solid talent for 2014 but that doesn’t help them at all this year.
Spring practice is a little under a month away but the Tigers still have the issue at running back to figure out. In this year’s class they were able to sign a talented player in Tyshon Daye, who was a four-star prospect and the No. 12 RB in the country. He will be a nice addition to their backfield but, along with Daye, most of their running backs are inexperienced and none of them are proven starters.
Already on the roster are three scholarship backs that have seen some playing time but they haven’t ever been a solid starter. The guy that will most likely be listed as the No. 1 back on the depth chart this spring is Rod McDowell. He’s a rising senior and he stepped up big last year to be a nice change of pace to starter Andre Ellington.
During spring ball McDowell will be challenged by D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks for the starting running back position. It was Howard who got a jump in fall camp on McDowell last season but he eventually fell to third on the depth chart. Whereas McDowell is a speedy, quick back, Howard is grind it out, downhill type of back that will hit the hole hard and fight for extra yardage. The two of them can almost form what Clemson had in 2012 with McDowell taking over as the top back while Howard provides the change of pace.
Daye and fellow recruit Wayne Gallman, who was also recruited in the 2013 class as an athlete but will translate to a RB with Clemson, will enter the fold this summer. Both guys were recruited by offensive coordinator Chad Morris for a specific purpose and that is to bring his “smash-mouth, spread offense” ideology to fruition. They are both tough backs that have mean streaks in them according to Morris and they will fit in his proposed offense perfectly.
It never hurts to have talent on offense and that’s what Swinney and Morris have at their disposal for the 2013 season. There is plenty of talent to go around at running back but not a lot of experience so the competition will be wide open this spring, into the summer and the start of fall camp.
Everyone will get a shot, we’ll see who makes the most of their opportunity.