Clemson University

C.J. Fuller leads Clemson running backs out of spring

Clemson running back C.J. Fuller runs the ball during spring practice.
Clemson running back C.J. Fuller runs the ball during spring practice. tdominick@thestate.com

Tony Elliott doesn’t expect to replace Wayne Gallman with one guy.

While Gallman took the lion’s share of carries among Clemson running backs the past three seasons, the Tigers might not have a bell-cow back in 2017.

Redshirt juniors Adam Choice and C.J. Fuller as well as sophomore Tavien Feaster are competing to be the starting running back. All three impressed Elliott, Clemson’s running backs coach and co-offensive coordinator, this spring.

“That’s been probably one of the best competitions that I’ve been around in coaching, those three guys and how they’ve competed against each other,” Elliott said.

Unlike last season, when Gallman played 786 snaps and the Tigers’ other running backs combined for 417, Elliott expects Fuller, Choice and Feaster to each see a regular share of the playing time this fall.

“I thought Tavien really, really came on (this spring) … started to see just a totally different demeanor, pad level was down,” Elliott said. “I thought that Choice really broke through from a pass protection standpoint.”

Fuller would be the first running back on the field, though, if the season started now.

“I thought that C.J. had the best spring in terms of his consistency from start to finish,” Elliott said. “If I had to start a game tomorrow, I’d run C.J. out there and then have Tavien and Choice ready to play.”

An Easley native, Fuller has earned an increased role each year since he arrived at Clemson. After redshirting, Fuller had 42 carries for 171 yards and 4 catches for 44 yards in 2015, with one rushing touchdown. Fuller had 47 carries for 211 yards and 7 catches for 62 yards, with two receiving touchdowns, last season.

Fuller has established himself, has performed well as a pass blocker. That’s an area where Gallman quietly excelled and where Clemson needs its running back to be reliable.

“(Pass protection) is very important to this offense,” Fuller said after the spring game. “Just being able to recognize who’s coming and picking it up, it means a lot.”

Fuller led all Clemson running backs in the spring game with 13 carries for 51 yards.

That said, Fuller expects the competition to remain tight when the Tigers return to the practice field in fall camp.

“This is a very good competition,” Fuller said. “All three of us are deserving to be that guy, so every day you can’t slack off. You’ve got to come out, you’ve got to finish your runs, you’ve got to block. You’ve just got to do everything that coaches ask of you so hopefully you can be that guy.”

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