Wayne Gallman is glad he came back for another year at Clemson.
The running back considered leaving school after last season, when he broke Clemson’s single-season record with 1,527 yards as a redshirt sophomore. Gallman was eligible for the 2016 NFL draft, and was projected to be selected in the middle rounds if he declared.
Instead, Gallman decided to stay at Clemson for one more year. As he prepares to play in his final game(s) as a Tiger, he believes he has benefitted from that decision – both on and off the football field.
Statistically, Gallman hasn’t been as productive this season. Gallman has just 1,002 rushing yards. What the statistics don’t show, he believes, is that he has become a more complete running back.
Tony Elliott, Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach, agrees.
“I think he’s been more consistent in his pass protection,” Elliott said. “I’ve seen him trying to play a lot more inside the framework of the concepts of the schemes that we’re running, as opposed to just relying on natural athletic ability and bouncing it.”
Another year at Clemson has meant another year learning from Elliott, as well as student assistant coaches Terry Allen and Dymon Adams, both former Clemson running backs. Gallman says those coaches have found new ways to challenge him this season, and it has made him a better player in turn.
“(The coaches) did a really good job in just kind of changing how they come at me in different things such as film or on the field, blocking, what I see in the defense,” Gallman said. “I think it’s helped me a whole lot.”
Improving as a blocker has been a big point of emphasis for Gallman this year. He has also challenged himself to use his vision and make proper reads out of the backfield rather than relying on his athleticism to get the job done.
“Instead of maybe doing something that I wasn’t supposed to do but making it a good play … doing the right thing the first time and then making a big play out of it,” Gallman said.
When Gallman was contemplating whether to return, Elliott made his expectations clear: “If you’re going to come back, we’re going to be fully committed to Clemson first.”
“If you have any doubts, if your mind is going to be constantly on the next level, then you need to go ahead and leave now,” Elliott recalled telling Gallman.
Despite that warning, Gallman stayed, and he has more than fulfilled Elliott’s expectations.
“One of the most committed guys that we have on this entire team,” Elliott said. “A guy that is very unselfish. Never complains about how many touches, never complains about his productivity. All he’s worried about is doing what he can do every single play to help us win.”
Coming back for a fourth year and third playing season at Clemson won’t necessarily lead Gallman to a higher draft selection – he is projected as a third-round pick by CBSSports.com – but his year of growth should make him more prepared for the NFL when he gets there.
Returning to Clemson also enabled Gallman to complete another goal: Graduating, which he did Thursday, with a degree in communication studies.
“Coming into college, that was a big focus of my mom, just graduating,” Gallman said. “I think it’s something that everybody should do. You should go to college and put all your time in and work to get to this, to graduate. You should never go into something and feel like you can’t finish. It’s all about finishing.”
Now that Gallman has finished his academic commitments, he can leave school after this season without regret. For now, though, he’s focused on his finishing his Clemson football career strong, as he and the Tigers make their second consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff.
“There always comes a point in life, like in high school, where you got to pick a school, see where that journey takes you and now I’m in college, who knows where that’s going to go?” Gallman said. “So I’m really ready to just (play) these next two games hopefully, do my best and see what’s next to come.”
Elliott, who recruited Gallman to Clemson and has been his position coach throughout his career, has seen Gallman grow from being a four-star recruit out of Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.) to one of the best running backs in college football.
“I knew that he had that kind of character and he had that type of substance to him, but he was coming from a situation where he didn’t have the physical development in terms of playing the running back position naturally,” Elliott said. “A guy that wanted to do it, was committed to it and now you’re seeing the fruits of his labor, that’s been fun for me to watch.”
Who: Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1)
When: 7 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
Line: OSU by 3