Ellington to carry the load
CLEMSON -- Entering the seventh week of the football season with a sub-.500 record and a three-game losing streak, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney indicated more offensive changes are on the way.
After revamping the receiver rotation in Saturday's 21-16 loss at North Carolina, Swinney said during his Sunday teleconference it is imperative to give former Berkeley High star Andre Ellington more opportunity.
Clemson entered the season with a timeshare at running back. But with Ellington averaging 6.6 yards per carry and co-starter Jamie Harper
averaging 4 yards per carry, Ellington could see a greater share of the rushing load going forward.
He entered the North Carolina game leading the ACC in rushing, and has 66 carries this season to Harper's 60. Ellington also could be targeted more in the passing game, where he has nine catches.
"I do think we have to get Ellington some more touches," Swinney said. "I think he's a guy that has been our most explosive guy, and we gotta make sure he's getting more opportunities and we'll do that.
"He's earned it. He's been productive. We've got to do a better job there. Again that's on me: I have to make sure that happens."
Despite Ellington's greater efficiency than Harper this season, and throughout his short career, the staff opted for an equal timeshare in part to keep the 5-9, 190-pounder fresh and healthy. But in attempting to turn around a season on the brink, production might now trump durability concerns.
Swinney wanted Ellington more involved Saturday. Ellington finished 12 carries for 55 yards. Harper had 11 carries for 29 yards.
"We really didn't get into the rhythm we wanted to," Swinney said. "We got away from some of our zone (blocking) stuff, which I thought was a little more effective."
Increasing offensive production continues to be a key objective for Clemson, which was held to 10 points over the first 54 minutes Saturday.
The Tigers elected to give the lion's share of receiver reps to DeAndre Hopkins, Jaron Brown and Bryce McNeal at Chapel Hill after Clemson's wideouts struggled against Auburn and Miami.
Swinney was pleased with the young receivers' play at UNC. After no Clemson wideout had a catch over the first 39 minutes against Miami, Brown and Hopkins combined for 11 catches and 153 yards against North Carolina.
Swinney said Hopkins will also continue to return punts. His first return went for 31 yards Saturday and set up Clemson's first touchdown, a 10-yard Harper run.
"(Hopkins) is really going to be a special player," Swinney said, "Jaron Brown, same thing, and same thing with Bryce. All those guys are answers for us."
Swinney hopes Ellington in an expanded role is another answer to producing a turnaround similar to last season's climb from a 2-3 start.
"If we learned anything from last year it's to not panic," Swinney said. "We still have a chance to be a good team, and there's still a lot of ball yet to be played."
No. 28 to be retired
Clemson will retire former star C.J. Spiller's No. 28 at halftime of Saturday's game against Maryland. He will be in attendance as Buffalo has a bye week. The Bills made him the ninth overall pick in this year's NFL draft after Spiller established 33 Clemson program records and tied Steve Fuller for a school-best sixth place Heisman Trophy finish.
Check out the Clemson blog at postandcourier.com/blogs/tiger_tracks and follow Travis Sawchik on Twitter (@travis_sawchik).