Ga. Tech loss motivates Ellington this spring

by - Senior Writer -
Andre Ellington and his backfield running mate, Jamie Harper, have both shown no signs of let-up this spring.

CLEMSON – In the aftermath of Clemson’s loss to Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game last December, I hurried into the tunnel below Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium and waited patiently as disappointed Tiger players filed into the locker room.

However, one player in particular caught my eye as coaches, trainers and players alike tried to deal with the disappointing loss.

Redshirt freshman running back Andre Ellington stopped before walking into the locker room, and stood in the tunnel with his helmet on, hands on hips, and it was obvious that Ellington was not only disappointed in the loss - he was angry.

Ellington stomped around the tunnel for two or three minutes before eventually trudging into the Clemson locker room, and my first thought was “Clemson is going to be just fine at running back once C.J. Spiller leaves, especially if everyone cares as much as this kid does.”

Ellington and his backfield running mate, Jamie Harper, have both shown no signs of let-up this spring, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said on Monday of his two backs “ I’d say I'd put them into one person because they've both been excellent so far.”

Ellington said after Monday’s practice that he remembered exactly how he felt after the Georgia Tech loss, and wanted to remember that feeling for the rest of his Clemson career.

“It was just one of those moments for a player that doesn’t want to lose,” Ellington said. “You gave your all and you still lost, and that is just one of those moments where I was thinking about what was ahead of me, and what I could do next season to make my team better so I wouldn’t have to go through this again.”

Harper and Ellington both have said that C.J. Spiller was C.J. Spiller, a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, and that neither one would ever expect to fill those shoes. But Harper also cautioned that trying to prove the naysayers wrong, the ones that say Clemson will be worse offensively without Spiller, is the wrong motivation.

“If that is my motivation to work and be a better player, then I have a problem,” Harper said. “The motivation, that is between me and Andre. We work hard, and we compete against each other every day. Even when C.J. was here, we battled him every day. I think I should work hard regardless of what people say – I just want to be the best player I can be and make my team better.”

Harper said that he agreed with Swinney’s assessment of “one player” regarding he and Ellington.

“We know there are two us, that we don’t have just that one guy,” Harper said. “We know we are going to get it done and compete. It doesn’t matter who starts. You start this game and I’ll start next game. It doesn’t matter as long as we get on the field and get the opportunity. With me and Andre, every day is a different battle – one day it’s blocking, the next day it’s running. We just have to try and get better every day, and get better for each other.”

Ellington said that while both players have their differences, he thinks they have one similarity that should excite the Tiger faithful in 2010.

“He is a guy that can hit the home run ball as well I can,” Ellington said of their ability to take a long run in for a touchdown. “We both have something different that we bring to the table. He has power, but he can also make quick moves like I can. He has just as much speed as I do in the open field. Sometimes I try to score by out-running people, but now I know from watching him that sometimes you just have to hit them straight up, because it’s not always about the home run ball.”

Ellington also said that watching Spiller over the last two seasons was a definite learning experience, but now it’s time for he and Harper to shine.

“I learned a lot from C.J., as far as being a playmaker and knowledge of the running game,” Ellington said. “He also taught me to trust me my speed. And I am glad to have Jamie back there with me, because as much as we run the football, it’s hard for one guy to get 30 carries per game. He does what he does, and I do what I do. We’ll just try to get better every day. It’s our time.”

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