Duane Coleman is the returning starter after coming on strong to end his first year as a Tiger. Coleman is a complete back that catches the ball well coming out of the backfield. Last season he caught 34 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns. We think those numbers will go up in an attempt to replace the number of touches Derrick Hamilton and Kevin Youngblood left behind. Coleman is a terrific threat as a receiver. He improved as a runner last season also with 133 carries for 615 yards. We think he will continue to compete as hard as any player on this team. Coleman is ultra-competitive.
Cliff Harrell returns as the starting fullback. Harrell is very athletic for his 260-pound frame. Clemson running back coach Burton Burns says his hands will surprise you. Unfortunately for Harrell the Tigers will continue to feature more of a one-back set.
Yusef Kelly came into camp last year out of shape and it showed. Chad Jasmin and Coleman beat him out. Kelly was coming off of a great game against South Carolina the previous year but he could not keep his momentum. Instead his conditioning and thus injuries hampered his junior season. We hear he is in excellent shape and expects his biggest season in 2004.
Reggie Merriweather had a great spring in 2003 but he could not do the little things as well as Jasmin and Coleman and his playing time showed it. The North Augusta native understood what happened to him and has progressed heading into his sophomore season. We think Merriweather sees a significant increase in his role in 2004.
Kyle Browning tried his hand at corner in the spring but returns to his natural position this fall. The junior has been very productive when he gets his chance. We also think his role increases. Browning is very tough and catches the ball well. We think he sees more PT in 2004.
Brandon Nolen is a redshirt freshman that will have to continue to wait his turn. Burns loves Nolen's speed and his time will come. Unfortunately for him Coleman, Kelly, Merriweather and Browning are ahead of him at this time.
Stephen Jackson experimented at linebacker in the spring but he returns to fullback this spring. His toughness is needed in goal line and short-yardage situations.
The staff rolled the dice in 2004 with All-American tailback Jamaal Edwards but Edwards chose FSU. They also turned down Albert Ashcraft late in the process because they felt little need for a tailback in the class. With no signees in 2004, the running back position will be a huge need in this upcoming class.
The Recruiting Board
Here is a look at several of the running backs Clemson will monitor in 2004:
James Davis (6-0, 205, 4.4) is one of the nation's top running back prospects. The Atlanta, GA back had 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He has been to Clemson on several occasions and has the Tigers in his top three. We think Clemson, Tennessee and Alabama are the slight leaders. Davis also has offers from Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Auburn, Oklahoma State and North Carolina.
Some feel Mike Davis (5-10, 205, 4.5) of Columbia, SC might be the top back in a good year for running backs in South Carolina. Last year he rushed for 2.349 yards and 25 touchdowns including a terrific playoff performance. Davis has also been to Clemson for unofficial visits. He says he has offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio State, Florida State, Maryland and Kentucky.
Travil Jamison (6-0, 205, 4.5) of Greenville, SC is a tough between the tackles runner who we have scouted for the past two seasons. He rushed for 2,400 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. Jamison also has been to Clemson for several unofficial visits. He says Clemson and Kentucky are his first two offers. He also lists South Carolina, Georgia, FSU and Tennessee among his choices.
Tony Nelson (5-10, 190, 4.45) of Northwest High School in Germantown, MD had an excellent camp at Clemson earlier this summer. His performance earned an offer from the staff and Nelson committed a few days later. His 4.4 forties caught the staff by surprise. This slasher rushed for 800 yards and 12 touchdowns last season but those numbers should increase this season. Before committing to Clemson Nelson had an offer from Marshall.
Sadat Chambers (5-10, 180, 4.5) of Central High School in Pageland, SC impressed both Clemson running back coach Burns and his Clemson recruiter Dabo Swinney with his speed. Last season Chambers rushed for over 1,100 yards. Some schools like Chambers as a defensive back but we would put him in the athlete category. Clemson is his first offer but South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech are also involved.
Bobby Wallace (5-8, 185, 4.5) is a powerful, shorter back. Last season he rushed for 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Conway, SC product has not received an offer yet but his top schools include Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, FSU and Tennessee.
Rod Fluellen (5-7, 190, 4.5) of Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, SC reminds many of Wallace. Built low to the ground, Fluellen gets tough yards between the tackles and has breakaway speed. He is still looking for his first offer among his favorites but lists Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia among his favorites.
James Arnold (5-11, 180, 4.5) of Mocksville, NC is considered by some as the top back in North Carolina this season. He has offers from all of his favorites including NC State, North Carolina, Auburn, Clemson, ECU and others.
The Tigers found two backs at their summer camps this year. Will Ford (5-9, 180, 4.4) of Traveler's Rest, SC is a back we have seen in each of the last two seasons. His consistent 4.4 forties at the summer camp got Clemson's attention. The Tigers have not offered but this kind of speed will get Ford a long look this season.
Another back the staff found this summer is fullback Mark Paschal (6-2, 230, 4.5) of Charlotte, NC. Paschal camped at Clemson and received an offer despite the fact that fullback is not a priority in this class. But Paschall's toughness and athleticism earned an offer from the Tigers as well as North Carolina, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Duke and Wake Forest.
These are a few of the running back prospects Clemson will continue to recruit throughout this fall. We think the staff would like to sign 2-3 running backs in the upcoming class.