Thursday's Clemson Football practice report

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Dabo Swinney after practice audio

CLEMSON – The big news coming out of Thursday’s practice – Clemson’s last before playing at Georgia tech on Saturday – was that redshirt freshman D.J. Howard will start at running back when the Tigers kick off against the Jackets at 8 p.m. in Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said that starter Andre Ellington, who has been slowed by an ankle injury this week, was questionable for the game.

“Andre would be questionable at this point,” Swinney said after practice. “He has been limited in practice this week, and I would say at this point that he would be a game-time decision. D.J. will start and then we will see how Andre does.”

Swinney said that Howard and true freshman Mike Bellamy will have to carry the load if Ellington can't play.

“Both of them have played. It's just the way it is,” he said. “D.J. went in and he was the leading rusher against Auburn and that was really the first game he played in. He ran out there and led our team in rushing and responded in a big way. Mike's had some big moments. You go up there to Virginia Tech and he seals the deal. I have a lot of confidence in them. They've practiced well. That's where I've been building my confidence in them.”

Howard has carried the ball 25 times for 167 yards (6.7 yards per carry) this season while Bellamy has 38 carries for 238 yards (6.3 yards per carry).

Swinney said that tight end Dwayne Allen, who has been battling turf toe, would be good to go against the Jackets and said the Tigers had finished a good week of practice.

“It was a good week of practice, a really good week,” he said. “This is our 12th week straight here. I think this is as good as a week as we've had all year, to be honest with you. I like how they've gotten focused on the task at hand, in all three phases, good attention to detail. I am looking forward to getting back over here in the morning and kind of tying it all together, from a meeting standpoint. We'll leave here about 1:45 and head toward Atlanta.”

Swinney said the Jackets will present a challenge.

“They're all difficult, at this point. At this level, and everybody’s got good players,” he said. “They're well-coached in their scheme. It's a unique challenge, from a schematic standpoint. They're all tough. Clemson and Georgia Tech, somebody shared this stat. Fourteen out of the last 16 games have been decided by an average of 4.6 points, or something like that. This is always a battle, regardless of what the records are. This is a team that got as high as 10 or 11 in the country just a few weeks ago. We'll have our hands full. It's about how we play. We've got to play well, execute our plan, and make good adjustments throughout the course of the game. “

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