Andre Ellington had never been hurt before.
When the Berkeley High product entered the postgame media room at Boston College last season, he thought the foot injury he sustained in the game was minor, though he wore flip-flops to alleviate discomfort. What Ellington had done was fray a ligament and fracture a bone, injuries requiring surgery and limiting Ellington to one carry over the final five games. The Tigers finished the campaign 2-3 without their star tailback.
With Clemson's camp beginning Friday, Ellington and the Tigers are ready to put last season behind them. In speaking with The Post and Courier last week, Ellington said he is fully recovered from December surgery and has lofty individual goals for the upcoming season.
"I'm ready to go. I kind of got over the stage where I felt it a little bit when I was out there running this summer," Ellington said. "My goal is to play a whole season; I feel like I let the team down last year. I would like to get in the 1,500 yards-plus range and score more touchdowns than I did last year."
Fifteen hundred yards? It is a lofty goal since the program record is 1,345 rushing yards set by Raymond Priester in 1996.
Still, if Ellington can average 20 carries per game -- which seems plausible since new offensive coordinator Chad Morris desires to rush 40 times per game -- and recapture his 7.2 yards per carry form of 2009, Ellington could threaten Priester's single-season record.
Ellington has averaged a program-best 6.33 yards per carry thus far in his career. His yards per carry declined from 7.2 in 2009 to 5.8 last season in part because Clemson lost the defense-stretching speed of Jacoby Ford, allowing defenders to cheat near the line of scrimmage. Ellington believes his job could become easier this year in Morris' new scheme and with incoming speedy players like receiver Sammy Watkins.
"I'm really excited," Ellington said of the incoming freshmen. "I saw a little bit what they could do. They can be really good for us this season."
Ellington said the new scheme contains many of the same zone-blocking principles Ellington has excelled in.
"There is still zone blocking, power, all our running plays," the junior tailback said, "there's just a different way we are going to do it."
Ellington saw more urgency in his teammates during summer workouts than he witnessed a year ago, when coach Dabo Swinney says there was a leadership void.
"The focus, just coming into this summer knowing a lot of the things we did in the past wasn't working." Ellington said. "Approaching this season, the focus is much better. The guys seem like they are interested in getting better and actually learning plays and executing."
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