|Richard Shiro/Associated Press|
|Clemson running back Roderick McDowell might miss this week's game with an ankle injury.|
In August, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said the Tigers' offense was "predicated on the run game. ... It's very critical to everything that we do."
Through the first third of the season, the offense has rolled along nicely without an established No. 1 running back.
Senior Roderick "Hot Rod" McDowell was supposed to be the feature back, but injuries have limited him to just 47 carries and 253 yards; he has not scored a touchdown. Quarterback Tajh Boyd leads the team with 49 carries and is second with 159 rushing yards. He has four TDs, the same number as the rest of the running backs.
McDowell rolled his ankle early in Clemson's rout of Wake Forest this past Saturday and might miss this week's game at Syracuse. Swinney told reporters his "guess" is that McDowell will be ready.
Sophomore Zac Brooks and junior D.J. Howard are listed behind McDowell on the depth chart. Howard has 23 carries this season, Brooks 19, and they have combined for 196 yards and two TDs. A less-than-100-percent McDowell likely means more carries for Boyd -- and perhaps a heavy emphasis on the passing attack against Syracuse, which has a shaky secondary.
As a team, the Tigers are averaging 179.3 rushing yards per game, a figure than ranks seventh in the 14-team ACC. That is 12 fewer yards than last season, but two games (South Carolina State and Wake Forest) have come against overmatched defenses. The Tigers ran well in the opener against Georgia, but that was with a healthy McDowell.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.