CLEMSON – Feed the beast.
That’s Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s guiding philosophy when it comes to running backs – particularly when one is proving to be as productive as Wayne Gallman.
Gallman is coming off his best game of the season – a 139-yard, 24-carry night at Louisville on Sept. 17.
“Wayne has separated, and he got hot the other night,” Swinney said. “If a guy gets hot, we’re going to feed him.”
Gallman rose to the top of the heap among Clemson’s running backs over the course of last season, and he’s followed suit through the Tigers’ first three games this year.
It’s true that Clemson has a stable full of capable backs, but Gallman has emerged as the one most capable of carrying the load.
Gallman has more rushing attempts (53) than the Tigers’ four other running backs have (41) combined, and he’s earned that right – the redshirt sophomore is averaging 103.3 yards per game.
He’s on track to become the 13th running back to rush for a 1,000 or more yards in a season, and will be looking to continue that pace when the 10th-ranked Tigers (3-0) play host to No. 8 Notre Dame (3-0) on Oct. 3.
In Clemson’s 20-17 win at Louisville, the rangy, hard-running Gallman accumulated more than 80 of his yards after initial contact with a would-be tackler.
“Defensive players are coming at you, and you’ve got to come at them with the same mentality,” Gallman said. “I’m just playing hard, trying to find something after the play. You’ve got to make things happen.
“A main focus of mine is I don’t like going down. I like getting dirty, but I still don’t want to get dirty. I like to stay up.”
And Gallman certainly means up. He’s 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, which makes him the biggest running back on the Tigers’ roster.
It also explains why 6-1 Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is his favorite running back and why he enjoys watching old film of former NFL stars 6-2 Marcus Allen and 6-3 Eric Dickerson.
“I like YouTube, I like Google, so I’ve learned a lot about different running backs in history,” Gallman said. “I’m pretty sure every running back likes AP (Adrian Peterson). He’s just phenomenal. When you watch him, he never takes a play off. He runs extremely hard, he’s fast, he’s smart, he knows what he’s doing. He’s just great to watch. I always watched him when I was young. I’m older and see different backs now, but he’s always at the top of my list.”
But being tall does present challenges for a running back – namely, staying on one’s feet despite a higher center of gravity.
“Sometimes you’re so high that you run through the hole high and that’s an arm tackle,” Gallman said. “You’ve got to learn to get low to break those arm tackles. But if you have the talent and work at it, it can be fun.”