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2016 Clemson Football Season Preview: Running Backs

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Capital One Orange Bowl - Clemson v Oklahoma Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tony Elliot must feel a little like Jay Leno when he looks at his running back roster. Leno has a famed classic car collection, but he can only drive one car at a time. I mean, how do you choose which car to drive when they are all incredible? This is the dilemma Elliot faces every game. He’s got an incredible roster of running backs, but he only has one ball. It’s an interesting juggling act for Elliot, but as always, it’s better to have too much talent than too little. So without further ado, let’s check out Elliot’s incredible stable of running back talent.

Wayne Gallman: RS Jr. – 6’0 – 210 – Loganville, Ga. – Grayson HS

Clemson Bio

2015 Statistics

Att – 282

Yds – 1514

Avg – 5.4

TD – 13

Rec – 22

Yds – 226

Avg – 10.3

TD – 1

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wayne Gallman is the returning first team All-ACC running back, and he does it all for the Tigers. The funny thing about Wayne is that most people had him pegged as a linebacker coming into Clemson from Grayson. Media member and over-the-top Clemson hater Gregg Doyel even took the time to write a nice little article about how Clemson was only signing Gallman because he came in the Robert Nkemdiche package deal (You know, the package deal that landed us Gallman, Ryan Carter, and Nick Schuessler). So Wayne may have come in with just a bit of a chip on his shoulders, and you can still see that chip when the ball is in his hands.

Gallman is everything you could want in a modern running back. He has the power to run up the middle, the speed to stretch the ball to the outside, and once he gets to the second level, he can decide if he wants to run past the defender or run over him. He is the perfect combination of power and speed, and rounds out the package with amazing feet and vision. That alone makes him one of the most valuable running backs in the nation, but he’s much more than just a guy that takes handoffs. If you want to stack the box against the run, you still won’t take Gallman out of the game, because he is an excellent receiver coming out of the backfield. He lit up both North Carolina and Alabama in the passing game in two of the biggest games of last season. Oh, and he still hits like a linebacker in pass protection. His ability to keep Deshaun’s jersey clean on blitz pick-ups allows the down-the-field passing game to thrive.

Gallman is obviously the lead back coming into the 2016 season, but with so many talented options available to the Tigers, I expect Clemson to keep Wayne fresh with a limited number of carries, especially in blowout games. I expect similar production, but possibly fewer carries, for The Wayne Train this season. I also expect him to be All-ACC first team, and on one of the All-American Teams. These are some high expectations, but Gallman has done nothing to show he can’t live up to them.

Adam Choice: RS So. – 5’9 – 210 – Thomasville, Ga – Thomas County Central HS

Clemson Bio

2015 Statistics:

Redshirt

North Carolina State v Clemson Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images

Adam Choice came to Clemson with a great reputation and stellar bloodline. If the last name Choice sounds familiar, that’s because his cousin Tashard Choice was a standout running back for Georgia Tech. His uncle Joe Burns was another standout running back for Georgia Tech. Cedric “Silky” Johnson, former Clemson offensive lineman, is yet another of his talented cousins. Football is in Adam’s blood, and it will be great to have him on the field again this season.

Adam was recruited to Clemson as a running back after playing his entire career as a record-setting quarterback in an option system. Choice quickly made the transition from quarterback to running back, and it looked like he had the 2014 starting job in the bag until a bad cut (he went one way, and his knee the other) during the “Wildcat” package against Boston College led to a torn ACL and ended his season. Choice may have been able to play at some point last season, but the coaching staff was able to maintain his redshirt, and let him start fresh as a Sophomore this year.

He has made the most of his fresh start in camp, securing the primary backup role on a roster filled with talent. In fact, Choice may have had the best fall camp of any running back, breaking long runs at will in several scrimmages.

Choice’s running style is almost the polar opposite to Gallman’s long-striding, high-running style. Choice stays low to the ground; he uses his compact frame to break tackles and his giant legs to churn out yardage. At 5’9 and 210lbs, there really isn’t much for defenders to hit on Choice besides his helmet, shoulder pads, and tree trunk thighs. Don’t confuse Choice for strictly a power back though. As the Clemson defense found out in multiple scrimmages, when Choice gets into the open field, he has the speed to run away from the defense and take it to the house. If you can outrun the Clemson defense, you’re fast enough to outrun every defense.

Like Gallman, Choice is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, and is hard for defenders to find when he tucks in behind offensive linemen in the screen game. Choice can also get low and punish oncoming rushers in pass protection, but is still knocking a little rust off of his pass protection game. Choice would probably start for 90 – 95% of college football teams. Having a player of his caliber coming off the bench will be a true asset this season.

C.J. Fuller: RS So. – 5’10 – 215 – Easley, S.C. – Easley HS

Clemson Bio

2015 Stats

Att – 42

Yds – 171

Avg – 4.1

TD – 1

Rec – 4

Yds – 44

Avg – 11

TD – 0

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Fuller is a guy that could be easy to overlook. He didn’t come in as a highly ranked recruit, and was redshirted his freshman year. Overlooking C.J. Fuller, however, would be a mistake. Fuller is the type of selfless player that teams need to succeed. Fuller did a bit of everything for the Tigers last season. He ran the ball a little, returned kicks occasionally, and covered kicks. Fuller and Adam Choice have similar physiques and running styles. Both are compact balls of muscle just looking for something to hit. Choice is probably a little faster, but Fuller might have a little more power to his game. 2016 will be another Swiss Army Knife season for Fuller. You’ll probably see him do a little of everything for Clemson, and do a little of everything well. He sits 3rd or 4th on the depth chart at the moment, but again, is a guy that could probably start of a good number of teams. The fact Clemson has someone like Fuller this far down on the depth chart is a luxury most coaches can only dream of.

Tyshon Dye: RS Jr. – 5’11 – 220 – Elberton, Ga. – Elbert County Comprehensive HS

Clemson Bio

2015 Statistics:

Att – 23

Yds – 91

Avg – 4

TD – 2

NCAA Football: Clemson at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tyshon Dye is a guy everyone should root for. Most players would hang it up after experiencing the series of injuries that Dye has suffered during his Clemson career. Yet, Dye keeps fighting through adversity and keeps working hard to help the team. Dye arrived at Clemson as a highly touted running back from Georgia.

Unfortunately, his injury woes started as a senior in high school, when he broke his ankle 7 games into the season, and missed the rest of the season after surgery. He came into Clemson still recovering from the ankle injury, and then injured his back in camp and was forced to take a redshirt. Dye recovered from his back injury and was preparing to make a move up the depth chart, but suffered one of the most devastating sports injuries possible, a torn Achilles tendon, in Spring practice. Amazingly, Dye recovered from the Achilles injury in time to see some action in the 2014 season, but he wasn’t the same explosive running back Clemson recruited. He added weight and lost explosion, a deadly combination at a position the relies on burst and athleticism.

If Dye played for certain programs (read SEC) he would have been politely asked to leave after 2014, but Clemson is family, and you don’t kick out family members who have fallen on hard times. Dye continued to work back from his Achilles problem, and in 2015 dropped some weight and began to regain some of the athleticism that the injury robbed from him. Honestly, although I’m sure 2015 wasn’t the type of year Dye imagined as a success when he entered Clemson, it was a success. He made it through his first injury free season since his junior year of high school. It appears that Dye has continued on his road to recovery in 2016, with injury free Spring and Fall camps. He has shown some burst in scrimmages this fall, and while he may not be the dynamic runner he was in high school quite yet, he’s beginning to show signs.

Dye is most likely 4th or 5th on the depth chart. If healthy, he can provide the Tigers with some serious muscle between the tackles on goal line situations. He may not get many carries this season, but I know I’ll be cheering for him when he gets the ball. Tyshon Dye is a true Tiger.

Tavien Feaster: Fr. – 5’11 – 210 – Spartanburg, S.C. – Spartanburg H.S.

Clemson Bio

Feaster

Tavien Feaster committed to Clemson on February 4th, 2014, and it’s been a long and anxious wait to see the 5* phenom from Spartanburg in Clemson orange. While Clemson was always firm with Feaster, Tennessee and Butch Jones threw everything, probably even the kitchen sink, at Feaster in an attempt to pry him out of The Upstate (Dabo is currently punishing Butch by raiding Knoxville and surrounding counties for top-end talent like Amari Rodgers and Tee Higgins). Feaster put up absurd numbers at Spartanburg High School throughout his career, but he showed just how versatile a player he can be as a Senior, amassing 1,121 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as a running back and 64 receptions for 979 yards and 12 touchdowns as a receiver… all with a bad shoulder. Feaster’s ability to hit the homerun, coupled with his ability to catch the ball, inevitably brings up comparisons to C.J. Spiller. While Feaster has a long way to go in order to be mentioned in the same breath as C.J. Spiller, he is one of the few players I can think of with the pure athletic ability to reach those heights one day.

Feaster is in a strange position on the depth chart. In fact, I’m not sure if he’s actually going to be on the depth chart. Adam Choice is the consensus pick for the number 2 spot, but I think Feaster probably ends up with more touches than Adam if Gallman stays healthy. That being said, if (God forbid) something does happen to Wayne, I think Choice, and not Feaster, will serve as the primary back. I see Tony Elliot and Jeff Scott using Tavien as the ultimate change of pace, getting him 10-15 touches a game including kick returns. I can see Feaster feasting on defenders, grinded down by tackling Wayne all game, in the 4th quarter. He is going to be a nightmare in the screen game for defensive coordinators, and he is big enough right now to help in pass protection if he can pick up the scheme. I suspect that you will see some sort of Feaster package from the coaches. When he gets his hands on the ball, it’s probably best not to blink or sneeze, because you might miss something incredible.