Howard and Buice eager to begin "second chance"


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CLEMSON – The common perception is that the Clemson Tigers have a void at running back during the 2011 spring practice.

D.J. Howard and Demont Buice beg to differ.

Starter Andre Ellington is still out with his foot injury, and Jamie Harper took his skills to the NFL draft, leaving Roderick McDowell as the only back that has seen game action.

However, Buice and Howard want to make sure no one forgets about them.

The two friends out of the 2010 recruiting class redshirted a year ago, and they are taking offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ challenge to “catch his eye” while they have the opportunity to heart.

Both are from Alabama, and Howard said he and his buddy Buice are leaning on each other.

“It was a learning experience coming in as a freshman,” Howard said. “I came in and learned a lot, but unfortunately I got banged up and had to redshirt. Right now, I’m taking everything one step at a time, trying to learn from the older guys. Andre Ellington is hurt and can’t play right now, so I’m just feeding off of him and trying to learn from him. We are all feeding off of each other.”

Buice said he felt like blocking was the weak point in his game when he arrived in Clemson, and wanted to use last season to improve.

“I learned a lot. I wanted to come in learn blocking and I learned my blocking from former coach Powell,” Buice said. “Now, it’s new learning experiences. New times. It’s like a new, fresh year for us. I think we have a great offense and we are learning as we go. It’s a one day process. Everybody is excited about the new offense and the fast pace. It’s great right now.”

Rumors have run rampant since they arrived that one – or both – could be facing a position change, but Howard said he hasn’t paid any attention to that. He just wants to get better.

“As long as I work on me and work on what I need to, and build myself physically and mentally, that’s all that matters,” Howard said. “I really don’t focus on another person or what anyone else says, I just worry about me.”

Buice said he wants to play running back, especially in Morris’ “smash mouth spread” scheme.

“I haven’t heard anything about position changes,” he said. “The only school that wanted me to play another position was Auburn, and I told them that it wasn’t happening. I’m still working at running back. I think Coach Morris’ offense is great. We’ve been watching film, and after two days of install it all looks good. We’ve watched film of Tulsa’s season last year, and that looks good. I like the zone. I like zone better than most of it.”

Buice stands 6-2, and weighs in at a solid 220 pounds, and he said he has no problems making people miss – or running over them.

“I toned up and got a little cut,” he said. “When I came in, I was 225 so I guess I got rid of a little fat- I have lost 2% body fat. I’m at 8% body fat right now. I’m more of a cut guy when it comes down to it. When I’ve got two guys in front of me, I’ve got to run through them. Miss one and cut off the other and go make something happen.”

Buice said he is looking at this spring as an opportunity not only for himself, but for his buddy Howard and McDowell as well. However, he is pulling especially hard for his buddy Howard.

“This is an opportunity for all three of us,” he said. “We are trying. We worked hard during the off season. We worked hard during All In drills. We are working hard during the spring and can’t wait until the fall. Me and D.J. are friends. We are both from Alabama and ride back with each other every weekend when we go home. We are like brothers and we complement each other. This is a competition, but at the same time we try to make each other better. We live at the same place and we talk about it all of the time.”

Howard finished by saying there is nothing like a second chance.

“This is my second opportunity. There’s nothing better this. I can’t wait. I’m excited.”

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