Season Preview: After losing leading rusher Roderick McDowell, the Tigers still return a deep stable of talented yet unproven running backs. Returning players include Senior D.J. Howard, Juniors C.J. Davidson and Zac Brooks, Redshirt Freshmen Wayne Gallman and Tyshon Dye, and True Freshmen Adam Choice and C.J. Fuller. The offense is expected to rely on the running game this year with the loss of a number of key offensive players as well as the lack of depth on the offensive line. Running Backs coach Tony Elliott wants to have a strong "stable" of running backs this year. He compared his desired "stable" to that of Alabama that has had its fair share of productive running backs over the last decade.
Injuries derailed this "stable" of running backs for most of the year. Junior Zac Brooks was lost for the season due to a foot injury two weeks prior to the game against Georgia. Brooks' injury forced the coaching staff to pull the redshirt off of Adam Choice. Choice would go on to be the team's most productive running back until an ACL tear at Boston College ended his true freshman season. Tyshon Dye also wasn't fully healthy for most of the year until coming back and getting a few snaps at the end of the win at Wake Forest. Of the running backs mentioned in the season preview, C.J. Fuller and Zac Brooks were the only ones who redshirted this season.
The overall production from the running backs for the 2014 Tigers was very inconsistent. The running game at the beginning of the season was almost non-existent at times but improved down the stretch with the emergence of Redshirt Freshman Wayne Gallman.
D.J. Howard got the first crack at being the lead back as the lone senior in the group. After an unproductive game against the Bulldogs at the beginning of the season with only 28 yards on 11 carries, the coaching staff began to take carries away from Howard and gave them to CJ Davidson, Wayne Gallman, and Adam Choice.
Even the potential he presented with his natural speed, CJ Davidson was never really able to get going either for Dabo and Co. Fumbling problems, including a key one in the FSU game which shifted the momentum in favor of the Seminoles at the end of regulation, played a big part in the decreased number of snaps for Davidson down the stretch.
True freshman Adam Choice emerged as the starting back for the Tiger offense at the end of September before tearing his ACL at Boston College while running a play as the Wildcat QB. Choice showed a lot of potential for the future of the Tigers' running back stable but has a ways to go in his ACL recovery.
The running game for the Tigers really began hitting its stride during the final month of the season. The emergence of Redshirt Freshman Wayne Gallman really provided the needed spark for the Tigers' running game. Gallman finished with at least 85 yards rushing in 4 of the last 6 games for the Tigers. Props to Coach Tony Elliott for helping to get the running game going down the final stretch of the season even with a spotty offensive line. Coach Elliott looks to improve on his work with the Tigers' running backs this past year into next year along with his new play-calling duties(which even with the small sample size has been impressive especially with his first ever play call being a touchdown!).
The future looks bright for Coach Elliott's stable of running backs as Wayne Gallman looks to be the feature back for this group next year. The return of Zac Brooks from injury should very much provide a spark while I expect to see Tyshon Dye continue to progress to the point where he will be a great complement to Gallman in the running game. Hopefully, Adam Choice will heal quickly and provide another dimension to the running game. A hopeful commitment from high school junior Tavien Feaster for the 2016 recruiting class will provide another but much more significant spark to the future of this position at Clemson. Overall, this group (though it hasn't reached its full potential) has improved quite a bit since the debacle at Georgia. I look for big things from this group next season.