Young running backs impress

CLEMSON — Tuesday night's practice might have been about the fans, but when practice started beside the Jervey Athletic Center in Clemson, it became the Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper show.

With hundreds of fans in attendance for the open practice, they noticed that the two backs who are getting the majority of the reps this spring received nothing but praise from their head coach.

Ellington was like lightning speed coming out of the backfield, while Harper showed his uncanny ability to be shifty despite his big size.

"What makes Jamie unique is his ability to change direction and accelerate for being such a big guy," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "He has a tremendous vertical and excellent lateral movement. He is a combination guy.

"He is a real power back, but he also has some elusiveness and some speed to run away from you."

As for Ellington, Swinney says they were just glad they made the right decision in redshirting him.

"Andre is really going to be a good football player," Swinney said. "He showed that last year. We dressed him up until about the sixth game and might have played him.

"We are glad we showed some discipline and did not play him. It sure is nice knowing we have him for four years and Jamie Harper for three more."

The Tigers also have C.J. Spiller for another year, and oh by the way, he looked like C.J. Spiller. The rising senior, who decided to stay in school instead of going pro despite a first-round grade, missed Monday's practice due to obligations he had with the track program.

"It felt great to get back out here," Spiller said.

The only thing that felt weird for Spiller was the fact his old running mate, and good friend, James Davis wasn't out there with him.

"It felt a little different. James was a great leader for me, but now I have to test my leadership skills," Spiller said. "I'm looking forward to that challenge."

So too is Swinney.

"The biggest thing with C.J. is staying sharp and being a leader," Swinney said.

From the way Ellington and Harper looked Tuesday, it appears Spiller is doing a little bit of both.

GOOD HANDS TEAM: Swinney said the number one thing he is looking forward to with his new group of running backs is their hands. He already knows Spiller has perhaps the best set of hands coming out of the backfield in the country, but now he has two more running backs in Ellington and Harper that can be just as productive when it comes to catching passes.

"Both catch the ball well and that is something we really have never had," the Clemson coach said. "I mean C.J. has great hands, but J.D. was okay, and that really helps you when you can put two guys in there that can catch because you don't always have to free release guys and you can do other things."

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