CLEMSON– With the Clemson Tigers having finished spring practice, and with a small sample size of only 15 practices to judge–it is now time that we begin a look across the Clemson roster to find the 10 players, at each of the 10 position groups, that will have a breakout seasons.
Today we continue with the heir apparent at running back–C.J. Fuller.
The rising redshirt junior from nearby Easley High School, spent the majority of his first two years in the Tiger program learning from the school’s all-time leader in career 100-yard games and the single-season record holder for yardage–Wayne Gallman.
But even before last season, which he was named Co-Most Improved at the team banquet, he had caught the eyes of head coach Dabo Swinney back in his redshirt freshman season.
“Then you have C.J. Fuller–he has been impressive and he is a complete player and a complete back,” Swinney said.
Swinney then doubled-down on his praise of Fuller last fall saying that he, “..is probably the most complete back that we have on the team…”
Now with the departure of Gallman, it is Fuller who has the confidence of the coaching staff to continue the legacy of running backs at Clemson.
“I thought that C.J. had the best spring in terms of his consistency from start to finish,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “If I had to start a game tomorrow–I’d run C.J. out there and then have Tavien (Feaster) and (Adam) Choice ready to play.”
Fuller emerged last season as the backup to Gallman, rushing for 211 yards on 47 carries–however, his biggest plays of the season came using his versatility in the passing game.
Fuller had an 18-yard touchdown reception against in-state rival South Carolina on a wheel route, and then, on the very same play, was on the receiving end of a 30-yard strike from Deshaun Watson in the Tigers’ 31-0 victory over Ohio State.
However, for Fuller to fill the shoes vacated by Gallman he will need to work on some of the things that do not show up in the highlight reels.
“Pass protection is very important to this offense,” Fuller said. “Just being able to recognize who’s coming and picking it up–it means a lot.”
Even after being named the starter by his position coach as the spring practice sessions came to a close, there is still a chance that the battle will rage on into the fall before the dust finally settles on the Tigers’ starting running back.
But Fuller is not shying away from the competition, because he understands that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
“I have waited for my chance for three years, and I know exactly how those guys feel,” Fuller said. “I love the competition, it brings out the best in you. If you don’t like competition and having guys competing then football isn’t for you, but as for me–I love it.”