Final Report Card: Running Backs

by - Correspondent -

Reggie Merriweather closed 2004 with a huge surge of momentum. Merriweather had emerged as the difference maker in the running game head coach Tommy Bowden had been looking for. Last February, Clemson signed highly touted running back James Davis. Davis was the most highly rated running back Coach Bowden had signed at Clemson.

Many believed Davis would come in and compete right away with Duane Coleman and Kyle Browning for the number two spot behind Merriweather. The optimism for Davis was hurt in August, when he went back home after a disagreement with the coaching staff. The plans for Davis did not change despite missing three days of practice.

Davis started the first game of the season against Texas A&M, as he was promised in the recruiting process. On Davis’ second carry, he broke for 32 yards and immediately, everyone knew he was the real deal. Most importantly late in the game the Tigers were down two and without starting quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

Offensive coordinator Rob Spence turned to Davis. Davis carried the ball eight straight times to set up the game-winning field goal.

In the second week of the season, Merriweather showed he would not be a forgotten man as he had the game-winning touchdown run at Maryland. Merriweather would be very important to Clemson’s success down the stretch.

Davis rushed for 143 yards in the first half against NC State, but on his first carry of the second half he broke his left wrist.

Merriweather responded with three consecutive 100-yard games in the absence of Davis. Despite a loss to Georgia Tech, Merriweather rushed for 128 yards becoming the first 100-yard rusher against the Yellow Jackets on the season.

Davis would return to form in the season finale against South Carolina. Davis rushed for 145 yards on 27 carries, as he carried the team on his back dominating the second half. Davis would carry the load in the bowl game as well as he knocked out Colorado with 150 yards.

Davis finished the year as the team’s leading rusher with 879 yards, and Merriweather finished with 715. Clemson now has the luxury of two backs, who could potentially be 1,000 yard rushers. Davis missed the Temple game, and was limited against Duke, where he could have easily pushed his numbers over 1,000.

Davis exceeded all expectations this season. He showed flashes of brilliance Clemson has not seen in the backfield since Terry Allen. Davis and Merriweather delivered this season for the Tigers, and they were a big reason why the Tigers were third in the ACC in total offense.

Grade: A

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