|by David Hood|
The answer was almost unanimous – running back and former walk-on C.J. Davidson, yet another player to come out of Central’s D.W. Daniel High School.
Morris told the media Tuesday evening that Davidson was third on the depth chart – behind Roderick McDowell and Zac Brooks – and I asked Morris if he trusted Davidson enough to put him in the game at a crucial moment.
His answer: Absolutely.
I posted that on Facebook shortly after practice was over, and many Clemson fans had the same question for me that I’ve been asked all spring: Who is C.J. Davidson?
Davidson isn’t even listed with the regular players in Clemson’s media guide, relegated to the final roster page with the walk-ons called “Veteran Reserves.” Outside of the Clemson coaches, the players on the team and the media that has been covering camp this fall, Davidson is a relative unknown in a lot of football circles.
Davidson came to Clemson from Daniel as a track athlete - he ran track during 2011-12 – where he was a long jumper and triple jumper. However, he gave up track for football last year, walked on to the football team, and saw his first action of the season when he played on special teams at Duke on November 3rd. A week later – against Maryland at home – he had five yards on two carries.
He saw no more action over the final part of the season, but made a mark during spring practice and has continued to impress Clemson’s coaches during fall camp. Running backs coach Tony Elliott told me in July that Davidson would compete for a job during the fall.
"C.J. is a Division I athlete," Elliott said. "He turned down some D1 offers so he could run track here at Clemson, and he has been a big surprise for us. I really feel like that with C.J., I have four guys that I can count on."
Morris told the media Tuesday that Davidson built on what he learned during the spring.
"I think we have seen flashes," Morris said. "He just didn't know what to do in the spring. I do think he has had a camp that has exceeded our expectations. He has spent a lot of time this summer learning the offense and he has been right there with everybody. So I'm excited about him."
One coach that knew Davidson had the talent to compete at the Division I level is Daniel head coach Randy Robinson, who said that he used Davidson all over the field with the Lions.
“The family lived in Seneca, and when they moved to Daniel we saw an explosive guy,” Robinson told TigerNet Wednesday evening. “He had played receiver for them, but we liked him as a running back. He went for over a thousand yards his junior year, but his senior year we had some trouble up front on offense and we just couldn’t get him loose. We got him beat up a lot, and he still had 800 yards. We even moved him out to receiver because he was just a great threat for us.”
Robinson said he knew that if Davidson ever concentrated fully on football and not track, he would open eyes on the gridiron.
“He is explosive. He can make plays,” Robinson said. “There is no doubt about that. People would come to practice and say, ‘Who is this kid?’ But he never really had the light turn on for him in football. If that had happened at Daniel, that would have been really nice. But he was always a great track athlete.
“He made the comment to me when he got the track scholarship that he was going to try and play football, but I told him that when you sign to run track at a school, they expect a 100 percent commitment to track. Next thing I hear, he is going to walk on to the football team. I knew he was good enough, and that if he committed 100 percent to football they would see he is a Division I athlete.”
Robinson got to watch Davidson during a recent practice, and came away impressed with his former player’s improvement.
“What immediately jumped out to me was the PAW drill,” Robinson said. “He always had that amazing speed and could get to the edge, but he was getting in there between the tackles and getting physical. That is a big improvement in his game.”
Robinson said his fondest highlight of Davidson’s Daniel career was the 2010 second round State AAA playoff game at South Pointe – the Lions almost upset the Stallions in a tight game before eventually losing 21-14.
“In that South Pointe game, he went 80 yards out of the wildcat and went down the sidelines almost untouched,” Robinson said. “That was against [Jadeveon] Clowney and that crowd. He had a great night that night.”
Now he is excited about the chance to see Davidson fulfill his potential – on Saturdays.
“I started hearing whispers in the spring that the coaches liked him, and they were saying he was going to be in the rotation,” Robinson said. “I know he is going to get his chance on Saturday, and I am excited about that.”
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com