For the last three seasons, and in four of the last five, the Clemson Tigers have had a running back rush for 1,000 yards or more. It has been a staple of Dabo Swinney‘s offensive philosophy during his time at Clemson to run the football effectively with exceptional backs. This offseason, the team faces the challenge of replacing the latest 1,000-yard back Roderick McDowell. Looking at the glut of talent at running back for 2014, the smart money is on Zac Brooks to emerge as the leading rusher and continue the streak of 1,000-yard rushers.
As a sophomore last season, Brooks ended up as the third leading rusher on the team, gaining 246 yards on 48 carries with a pair of touchdowns in just 11 games. With both McDowell and Tajh Boyd no longer on the team, he will be the team’s leading returning rusher and showed off a nice bit of explosiveness in the running game. His 5.13 yards per carry average were second only to McDowell for Clemson rushers with at least 20 carries.
But it won’t be as easy as just getting plugged in as the starting running back and running for Brooks. Coming out of the spring, senior D.J. Howard is listed at the top of the depth chart for Clemson. His extra experience likely gave him an edge heading into the summer despite rushing for fewer yards (213) and having a much lower yards per carry average (3.74) than Brooks.
And Howard isn’t the only one vying for carries in 2014. The Clemson backfield is stacked with talent with C.J. Davidson and Wayne Gallman filling out the depth chart after spring practice. A fifth running back, Tyshon Dye, is recovering from an Achilles tendon tear but is expected to return at some point during the season. That gives Clemson five quality backs that can all play in addition to the three four-star running backs joining the club this fall as true freshmen.
That incredible depth will allow Clemson to spread the wealth when it comes to carries, which could result in nobody breaking the 1,000-yard mark in 2014 while still improving the rushing stats of the team overall. But if one of the backs is going to break out from the pack and lead the way, look for it to be the electric Zac Brooks.