The Tigers are preparing to face a couple of great running backs during the 2014 season including Georgia's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, South Carolina's Mike Davis, North Carolina's Elijah Hood (highly touted freshman from Charlotte), Florida State's Karlos Williams, and NC State's Shadrach Thornton. All will be tough challenges for what is expected to be a great defensive front for Clemson, but here are the three that I think are the best that Clemson will face in 2014.
3. Karlos Williams
I chose to go with Karlos Williams here because he finally gets his chance to be the lead back for Florida State's offense after being positioned behind Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Williams rushed for 730 yards in 2013 despite being third on the depth chart. Williams now figures to be the focal point of the Seminoles' running game, but the Seminoles have other options including sophomores Ryan Green and Mario Pender along with highly touted freshman, and former Clemson commit, Dalvin Cook. The Seminoles lost a few offensive weapons including their dynamic running back duo in Freeman and Wilder and top receiver Kelvin Benjamin, but they still return most of their championship offense. The Tigers will still have to worry about stopping the quarterback who tore them up last October (who also happens to like crabs) while also having another dimension of the offense to worry about in Williams, who was dubbed as a preseason All-ACC running back. Many expect Williams to have a breakout senior season and help take pressure off of Jameis Winston.
2. Mike Davis
After a breakout season for the rising junior in 2013, Mike Davis will look to improve upon his sophomore season in 2014. After losing important players on offense including Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington, the Coots still return one of the better running backs in the nation to an offense in transition in 2014. Davis rushed for 1183 yards during his sophomore season, but he only rushed for 22 yards against Clemson during the 2013 Palmetto Bowl in Columbia. Mike Davis is expected to be one of the better backs in the nation for 2014 and is considered by some to be a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy. A big, bruising back, Davis will likely be the main focal point the Tigers and other teams will key on stopping when playing the Coots.
1. Todd Gurley
As a junior in 2014, Gurley should be the best running back the Tigers will face in 2014. Gurley gave the Tigers' defense fits during the 2013 season opener as he ran for 154 yards on the Clemson defense along with scoring two touchdowns. Gurley is thought of by many as the best running back in College Football and also as a challenger for the Heisman Trophy. Gurley was a Freshman All-American along with being a Second-team All-SEC during his freshman season in 2012. Look for Gurley and complement back Keith Marshall to provide another tough test against Clemson, a team which once thought they had both of them committed in 2012.