80 yards and a cloud of dust

Andre Ellington

CLEMSON - It was kind of one of those plays that everyone thought was dead.

Andre Ellington, who stands barely at 5-foot-10 and weighs just 180 pounds, hit a small crack behind left guard and ran into what looked like a brick wall. Simply put, it looked as if Ellington was down right at the point of contact. But once the whistle was blown and all the bodies were cleared out, there laid one of the smaller guys on the Clemson football team three yards up the field.

"The thing that he does so well is that he knows how to bend his body," Clemson running backs coach Andre Powell said. "He can get into small, small cracks. He plays with such good leverage he can get in those small cracks and dig out three more yards when you don't think there are any more yards there to have."

Ellington, a redshirt freshman, can also break tackles and like his counterpart in C.J. Spiller, he can make defenders in the open field appear as if they are trying to tackle air.

"I just want to get out there and show everyone what I can do," he said.

What he can do is run with the football like few others. At Berkeley High School in Moncks Corner (S.C), he ran for 1,822 yards and 24 touchdowns during his senior season. He also added four all-purpose touchdowns in receiving and kick returns and finished the year with 2,519 all-purpose yards. Sound familiar?

"Andre is another kid that has talent," Powell said. "He played in a very similar system in high school. A lot of the communication is the same and the plays are similar. He is a very smart guy.

"He can make plays and is really good on the second level. He is a home-run hitter."

He is also a guy that doesn't mind getting his pants dirty and he tries to find contact instead of avoiding it.

"He plays more physical than what you might think if you just look at him," Powell said. "He is strong and does a good job with his hands. He is another guy we have to find ways to get him the football."

It also gives Powell and offensive coordinator Billy Napier another guy who has the ability to take the football to the end zone every time he touches the ball.

"When you make substitutions, you can have a drop off when the backup goes into the game, but we are in the situation that when our backup goes in the game there should not be any noticeable drop off. That's a pretty good problem to have," Powell said.

That problem allowed Clemson to pretty much sit Spiller this spring and save his body, while giving Ellington, along with fellow backfield mate Jamie Harper, the opportunity to learn the offense a little better so when those opportunities arrive this coming fall, they will both be ready.

"That helped us out a lot," Ellington said. "We are both still new to this offense and by us just going out there and being able to split carries and learn, it has really helped us."

Powell still wants to see Ellington put on at least five more pounds before the season starts and he wants him to stay as hungry as he was this spring so that when his number is called, he is ready and there is no drop off.

"The more he plays and does in the skills and drills this summer, the much better he will be," the Clemson coach said.

And the next time he finds a way to slip through that small crack between left tackle and left guard, he might be 80 yards down field instead of just three.

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