Every day here at Your Best 11, we are counting down to the start of the regular season with our top 150 players for the 2012 season.
No. 97: Andre Ellington, No. 23, Clemson, Running Back
When Jamie Harper left early for the NFL the load for the Clemson Tigers' rushing attack was shoved over to Andre Ellington. I'll admit, I was skeptical about the shifty, speedsters ability to be the primary back for Dabo Swinney's crew. He out performed nearly every expectation I could have had for him. He came into 2011 as a guy with all of the quicks and the ability to go the distance whenever the ball was in his hand. He exited 2011 as an every down back that was capable in every facet of the game. Ellington was able to get the yards between the tackles as well as on the edge to set the pace for the Tigers. The junior averaged more yards per game than CJ Spiller and was truly the ground threat for Clemson's dynamic offense.
Durability and picking up tough yards consistently are the downfall of Ellington. While he proved he is capable of being an every down back, he also showed that getting dinged up can sideline him for a time and tough defenses will shut down his efforts. North Carolina State and Virginia Tech stuffed the box against Clemson's scheme and Ellington had trouble finding holes and getting things going. Against North Carolina the back got hurt early and it took him until after the regular season to truly get back on track in the ACC Championship game.
Ellington's 2011 efforts put him on the second team All-ACC list and with David Wilson now in the NFL there is room at the top for the Clemson senior to join North Carolina's Giovani Bernard at the top of the heap. Clemson's got an offense that features Nuke Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd terrorizing pass defenses; leaving plenty of opportunity on the ground for Ellington. With the departure of backfield mate Mike Bellamy the onus is on Andre Ellington to put up the yards and if he's healthy look for him to cross the 1,200 yard mark in 2012.