Andre ‘the playmaker'

Andre ‘the playmaker'

CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney could not believe what his ears were hearing when he walked into the coaches' staff meeting Monday morning.

"They were talking about the Andre Ellington plan and all this," Swinney said smiling. "I had to remind them that we had 28 (C.J. Spiller) and 6 (Jacoby Ford) that were going to be here.

"All that stuff sounds good that you're talking about, but we will do that with 28 and 6."

But all the talk about the 5-foot-10 red shirt freshman hit home to Swinney and let the Clemson coach know he has something now that the Tigers have not had in the previous three seasons with C.J. Spiller — another C.J. Spiller.

"Andre gives us a guy like C.J.," he said. "In the past when C.J. was out, we really didn't have a guy like him. Now we have a guy like him and in a lot of ways.

"The fans will see that as we develop him throughout the season. He is a dynamite little player."

To tell you how dynamite, just go back to Clemson's first scrimmage of the spring. In that scrimmage, Ellington took the ball up the middle and almost exactly like the play Spiller made against South Carolina last November, making one tackler miss before spinning to avoid another and then bouncing outside where he went 25 yards for a touchdown.

"That's an example of how he has caught everybody's eye," Swinney said.

It's also an example of how dedicated Ellington is to make the most out of the opportunity he got this spring. With Spiller missing much of spring practice due to his commitments to the track program, Ellington, along with fellow running back Jamie Harper, has taken the majority of the snaps with the first team offense.

In his time in there, he has not only shown the coaches his big-play potential, but he has also shown them his grit and toughness to stretch a play out and get the most out of it.

"He is just a tough kid," offensive coordinator Billy Napier said. "He is not the biggest guy, but he is extremely talented. He has continued to make plays. He will stick his nose in there.

"When it is a little dirty in there, he will go get those two or three yards that is not there and will go create some space."

After being red-shirted last fall, Ellington said he dedicated his winter workouts and the spring to prove to the coaches that he is the player they signed in the 2008 class. At 5-foot-10 and 170-pounds, Ellington is known for his 4.3 speed, but he wanted to show the coaches he is a whole lot more than a speedy back.

"I just wanted to get out there and show everyone what I can do," he said. "If the coaches expected me to do something, I wanted to show them that I was up for the challenge."

Coming in last year, Ellington was looking forward to learning the offense and getting on the field, but as he found out that wasn't the plan. And he was glad that was the case.

"They red-shirted me and right now that was the best thing that could have happened to me," he said. "I'm just going to take that and do what I have to do."

What he did was hit the weight room before going full-speed during winter drills in order to be ready for the spring. Once practice got here, he went full speed.

During three-on-three drills where a running back runs head first into a pile of linemen and defensive tackles, Ellington jumped at the opportunity when his number was called. When 6-foot-4, 300-pound nose tackle Jarvis Jenkins power drived him into the turf, Ellington just hopped up and asked for the ball again.

"We're really pleased with Andre. His attitude, man what a great kid he is," Napier said. "He will earn his touches. He will get the ball some and I'm really pleased he has four years of eligibility left."

So is Ellington.

The Berkeley High School product knew the chances of him playing last season were slim to none when guys like Spiller and James Davis were already occupying the backfield, but instead of pouting, he stayed with it and worked harder to make sure he got on the field a lot this season.

"I want to give some advice for those guys that just want to come in and play," he said. "There is a good chance that you will get red shirted and that's okay. You get to learn more and you get more experience and that's what happened to me.

"I knew it was pretty slim, but I was still looking (forward) to going out there and playing. They red shirted me and I knew that was the best thing that could have ever happened. Now I'm just going out there and showing them what I can do."

With his family coming up this Saturday for the Orange and White game and knowing Spiller isn't likely to have many carries, Ellington is looking forward to his first opportunity to show the fans what he can really do. And it is just a preview of what he hopes to do this season and the three seasons that follow.

"I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing in front of 80,000 people. That was my dream when I got recruited and I decided to come to this school," he said. "That was a big part of it so I just want to get out there and show them.

"When I'm in there, I'm going to try and be a playmaker."

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