Clemson coach Dabo Swinney recently said that, above all else, the Tigers have to run the ball to be effective.
"Everything for us is predicated on the run game. Everything," he told the Anderson (S.C.) Independent Mail. "It's very critical to everything that we do."
What that means, then, is that for star QB Tajh Boyd and stud WR Sammy Watkins to be at their best, a guy nicknamed "Hot Rod" better come through this fall.
Andre Ellington rushed for 1,081 yards and eight TDs last season, when Clemson finished 11-2 thanks to an offense that rolled up 512.7 yards and 41 points per game. But Ellington is gone, and his replacement almost certainly will be Roderick "Hot Rod" McDowell, a fifth-year senior who has rushed for 674 yards and seven TDs in his career.
Clemson opened fall camp Friday with McDowell at the top of the depth chart at tailback. Junior D.J. Howard and sophomore Zac Brooks -- who have a combined 102 carries between them -- and true freshmen Tashon Dye and Wayne Gallman are the others in the mix.
"We're built to run," Swinney told the Independent Mail. "That's what we do. ... We're running the same things people have been doing for years, but we just do it a little differently. ... We do it really fast. That's the big thing. And our big plays come from the presentation of the run game -- play-action."