With the graduation of senior Roderick McDowell, the Clemson Tigers are faced with a difficult question heading into 2014: Who is going to see the majority of snaps at running back? Running backs have always played a huge role in Chad Morris's spread offense. In fact, Morris's version of the spread is essentially a new age version of the Wing-T offense as it so reliant on the running game. So in a system where the run game is so crucial, the decision of who will start at RB in 2014 will be a pivotal one to say the least.
So who will be the next man up to fill this glaring need for the Tigers? Well let's take a look at the candidates:
D.J. Howard (Senior):
After struggling to see playing time during his time at Clemson, the talented rising senior looks poised to break through this year. Howard brings an interesting combination of physicality and speed to the table for Clemson, a team whose offense thrives with versatility. A threat to break away every time he sees the open field, Howard could be just what the Tigers need to replace McDowell in 2014.
Zac Brooks (Junior):
Over the past two years the speedy Brooks has shown flashes of talent in his limited playing time, collecting 365 yards and two touchdowns on just 75 carries. Brooks has solid size, listed on ESPN as 6-1, but will probably need to add some weight if he wants to be the "premier back" as he currently sits at 185 pounds. Brooks has good hands and has the ability to be a receiving threat out of the backfield if needed, a valuable asset in an offense as dynamic as Chad Morris'.
C.J. Davidson (Junior):
A combination of finishing the 2013-2014 season with four touchdowns and an impressive spring up to date has former walk-on C.J. Davidson in a spot where he could legitimately win the starting job if he continues to turn heads. The track star certainly has the athleticism you like to see in a running back and can certainly make a strong case for the starting position if he can continue to hone in on his fundamentals. This summer will be crucial to the progression of his role with the Tigers.
While the three players listed above aren't the only ones who are competing for the starting position, I do believe they are the most likely to obtain it. It is certainly possible, however, that redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman could absolutely blow the coaches away with his "dynamic and electric" style of running and win the battle. And of course you can't rule out the other freshmen; Adam Choice and Tyshone Dye. Unfortunately, due to an Achilles tear in mid-February, Dye may not see the field until midway through the season. I did not include C.J. Fuller and Jae'lon Oglesby as they are academic casualties.
In the end, however, I think it is very likely that we see a running back-by-committee sort of situation in 2014 where one back gets about 35-50% of the snaps and the rest of the snaps are divvied up amongst everybody else.