While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.
We’ll be going team-by-team to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
With weapons such as Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins at receiver, you’d think Clemson would be set in the passing game. Yet, that’s what Ellington has spent much of the offseason working on as he looks to boost his draft stock by showing greater pass-catching ability. Reeling in just 22 passes last season for a measly 109 yards, he has a ways to go, but it’s the type of skill set that will pay huge dividends as the season goes on. Without a battle-tested tight end this season, quarterback Tajh Boyd will need a safety valve, and that player could be Ellington. Additionally, as the team gives the pistol offense a go in spurts, they’ll need consistency from Ellington to find those holes quickly and effectively.
From a pure running standpoint, the South Carolina native also has plenty of room to grow. Even dealing with leg issues in 2011, he was able to average 5.3 yards-per-carry and rack up over 1,100 yards in a pass-heavy offense. With an apparent emphasis on the run this season, to establish a more balanced attack, the opportunities to improve upon those numbers are likely to go up, too. Of the 13 games he played in last year, seven saw him carry the ball less than 20 times (in part, due to his leg issues). He can bank on receiving the football a whole lot more in 2012, and his performance leading a mostly-inexperienced backfield could be the difference between a “good” season and a “great” one. The excuses have vanished for Ellington, and Clemson hopes and believes he’s up to the challenge.
Previously: Boston College
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