Most college programs would be hurting the spring after losing a player like Wayne Gallman. But for the defending national champions, it’s business as usual. Thanks to some outstanding recruiting in recent years, Clemson is well-positioned to keep its ground dominance churning in 2017.
Clemson’s returning backs have some mighty big shoes to fill replacing Gallman, though. However, the good news for Dabo Swinney is that the Tigers have a wealth of gifted rushers chomping at the bit to take Gallman’s place.
Clemson will employ a multi-back approach, with juniors Adam Choice and C.J. Fuller, and sophomore Tavien Feaster, rotating snaps. Fuller earned his place as the projected starter with a solid spring; he ran for a team-high 51 yards on 13 carries in the spring game. Fuller and Feaster are also candidates to return kickoffs for the Tigers in the fall.
Fuller’s biggest impact in 2016 came in Clemson’s near-disaster in Death Valley against NC State. After Gallman left the game with an injury, Fuller stepped in and ran for 56 yards on 16 carries, helping the Tigers survive the Wolfpack. Fuller added a 30-yard touchdown reception in Clemson’s victory over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Feaster played sparingly as a redshirt freshman last season — mostly in lopsided Clemson victories over South Carolina State and Syracuse. But with game-breaking speed and excellent instincts, he has the potential to be the best of Clemson’s current crop of rushers in time.
Choice was actually ahead of Gallman on Clemson’s depth chart in 2014 as a freshman until the Boston College game, when he suffered an ACL tear. Clemson’s leading rusher at the time was forced to miss the entire 2015 season. Choice returned last fall but didn’t appear to have his full skill set back. The 2016 season proved to be a major disappointment for him, with just 45 carries and 158 rushing yards.
Swinney praised Choice this spring, indicating that he was getting his confidence back. Choice was a part of the rotation throughout the recently concluded spring season, making his case for significant action in the fall.
With a three-headed monster of experienced rushers, Clemson is ready to replace Gallman. The Tigers will not have to do it with a single guy, either; they will have the luxury of throwing three big, powerful backs at opponents.
It is a delightful prospect for the Tiger coaching staff as they look to defend their NCAA crown.