CLEMSON -- During situational work in Tuesday's scrimmage, Dabo Swinney designed a short-yardage drill -- the first-team offense needed a first down to seal the game, the first-team defense needed a stop.
Emerging from the scrum was sophomore running back Jamie Harper, who not only picked up a first down, but also a 56-yard score on the play. The long run displayed his power, speed and accounted for the majority of his team-best 91 rushing yards on eight carries Tuesday.
The run continued what has been an excellent summer camp from Harper, who is expected to be C.J. Spiller's primary backup.
"The defense was trying to make a big stop, putting everybody in the box," Harper said. "Break one or two tackles and you pretty much got the game."
In Clemson's best-case scenario for 2009, Spiller is Reggie Bush circa 2005, while Harper performs like
Bush's former Southern Cal backfield mate LenDale White.
"Jamie had another great day," Swinney said. "He ripped off a long run and showed his speed. He pulled away from some guys.
"He has had a great camp. He is one of the hardest-working practice guys we have."
After a disappointing freshman campaign -- Harper totaled 133 yards on 34 carries last season and inauspiciously began his career by fumbling away his first carry against Alabama -- Harper rededicated himself in the offseason.
He looks again like the No. 12 overall prospect in the country, which ESPN tabbed him entering 2008, a rare player, who as a power back combines speed and elusiveness.
"He was the third guy (last season) and he got a little fat and happy," Swinney said. "He settled in that role and didn't really have that hunger, whereas now he's been through a season and seen how guys work.
"He takes a lot of pride. He makes very few mistakes. He is a high-motor, high-effort player."
Harper said he's lost 25 pounds since the end of last season, working with a team nutritionist to drop his playing weight to 225 without losing strength. He said he ran a 4.37 second 40-yard dash this summer.
"I spent a lot of time in the weight room," Harper said. "I lost a lot of weight. I got my quickness back."
While Swinney met with the quarterbacks Sunday night to announce roles, Harper said there has been no outline discussed for the deep running back pool other than Spiller being the clear-cut feature back.
And as good as Harper has been, he'll have to keep competing to fight off former Berkeley High star Andre Ellington, who is also in line for carries.
Offensive coordinator Billy Napier cautioned that with Ellington presence, Harper will likely not carry a workload like James Davis' last season or White's 2005 season at Southern Cal when he carried the ball 197 times, essentially splitting the workload with Bush (200) in one of the most productive backfields of the last decade.
"I'm just getting in there and trying to produce," Harper said. "I'm just trying to do the little things."
Said Swinney: "He's matured. He understands what it is all about."
Notice about comments:
The Post and Courier is pleased to offer readers the enhanced ability to comment on stories. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point.