Howard wants to push Ellington for starting spot

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CLEMSON – D.J. HowardD.J. Howard
RS Fr. Running Back
#22 5-11, 195
Lincoln, AL

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knows his role on the Clemson football team, but that doesn’t mean he is satisfied.

The second-year player out of Lincoln, Alabama, chose the Tigers over in-state Auburn because the Clemson coaches offered him the chance to play running back, and now he comes out of the spring as the solid No. 2 back behind starter Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Jr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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Howard carried the ball 41 times for 235 yards a year ago, and he and fellow freshman Mike BellamyMike Bellamy
Fr. Running Back
#5 5-10, 175
Nocatee, FL

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carried the load while Ellington was hurt, but Howard knows he has to do everything better in his second season.

“I came into spring hoping to do everything better than I did last year,” Howard told TigerNet. “I wanted to do everything better and make a name for myself, so my focus this spring has been on getting better. I thought I did some good things last year, but there was a lot of room to get better.”

He knows that replacing a second-team All-ACC running back in the starting lineup would be a tall order, but he said this week that doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried to push for the starting spot ahead of his good friend and mentor.

“I never settle on being number two, and I want to push Andre for that number one spot,” he said. “If I am number two, then that’s where I’m at. But I want to try and get that number one spot, and I won't be satisfied until I get number one. I am going to keep working every day and push Andre. That just makes us both better.”

Ellington has faced complications from injury in each of his three seasons in Clemson, and will miss Saturday’s spring game after having surgery on Thursday to repair scar tissue in his ankle area.

With that in mind, Howard told TigerNet that means that all of the running backs have to be prepared to step in and play at a high level so the offense doesn’t sputter, as it did at times last season when Ellington was out.

“We all understand we have a role to play,” he said. “I know if Andre is out, then I need to go in there and there not be a drop off. We all have a standard to be the best.”

With Ellington sidelined against Georgia Tech last season, Howard carried just seven times for 23 yards and lost a critical first half fumble that led to seven Jacket points. At the time, the Tigers led Georgia Tech 3-0, but quarterback Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS So. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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had just been sacked for a 16-yard loss and Clemson faced a 3rd-and-31 from its own 15-yard line.

Boyd threw a quick swing pass out to Howard, who struggled for extra yardage despite still being 25 yards shy of the first down marker, and the ball was stripped away. Five plays later, the Jackets held a 7-3 lead they would never relinquish.

Howard said that part of his maturation process has been in understanding that the little things mean a lot.

“It’s just attention to detail,” he said. “It’s down and distance. It’s ball control. Ball control is a big deal, because the more turnovers you have, the less successful you will be in winning. The coaches have stressed that a lot this spring.”

Howard said he thinks Clemson’s Pistol formation will help all of Clemson’s running backs, and he wants to be the physical runner he feels Clemson lacked last season.

“I want to be a strong, dedicated and hard runner,” he said. “I am not going to try and make you miss. If you want to hit me, then it’s going to be a train wreck.”

Howard then took a few minutes to describe each of his backfield teammates.

Andre Ellington – “Fast, strong and confident. The total package. Great feet.”

Mike Bellamy - “One of the quickest guys I have ever seen, period. Fast, fast, fast.”

Rod McDowell – “Best feet on the team.”

Zac BrooksZac Brooks
Fr. Athlete
# 6-2, 180
Jonesboro, AR

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– “Strong, dedicated runner and he will play a big role on this team in the future.”

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