CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson freshman running back Mike Bellamy was ruled academically ineligible and won't return to school next fall.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that Bellamy plans to enter a junior college this summer. Bellamy was a Parade All-American and considered consensus a five-star prospect in the mold of former Clemson star C.J. Spiller. Yet Bellamy never found his place on the field and got in trouble off it when he was sent back to campus by Swinney on the day of the Tigers' ACC title game against Virginia Tech.
"We wish him well and hope he can back on track in the classroom," Swinney said.
Bellamy and receiver Sammy Watkins were supposed to be the speedy, offensive talents who would electrify a Clemson offense that struggled to score points in 2010. And while Watkins became an AP All-American and a record-setter as a freshman, Bellamy couldn't always find the open holes. When he did break free, Bellamy was just as likely to fumble as he was to find the end zone.
Bellamy was suspended for the first half against Boston College for complaining about playing time in a Facebook post. He was among the last ones out of the locker room after a thrilling comeback win at Maryland where Watkins was the star.
Bellamy had fumbles against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State as the Tigers followed their 8-0 start with losses in three of their next four games.
Junior tight end Dwayne Allen and starting running back Andre Ellington both tried to mentor Bellamy and keep him focused.
"He is a guy who has to understand his time is coming and have patience. That's the only thing I stress with him," Allen said of Bellamy last October.
The breaking point came at Clemson's highest point last season when Swinney suspended him indefinitely before the Tigers' 38-10 victory over Virginia Tech to win their first ACC title in 20 years. Bellamy was also suspended for Clemson's Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia.
Swinney allowed Bellamy back in the program for the spring semester and was pleased with the running back's progress.
"I am proud of the improvements Mike Bellamy made in the spring semester in a number of areas," Swinney said. "We gave him the opportunity to return to school in January and to grow as a player and a person and by all accounts from his teammates and coaches, he was doing well."
Bellamy came out of spring third on the depth chart at running back, behind Ellington and fellow freshman D.J. Howard. Bellamy pledged to continue working hard through the offseason so he could contribute this fall.
"In the end, he came up short academically," Swinney said.
Bellamy rushed 57 times for 343 yards in 2011 as a true freshman. His 6.0 average was best on the team. He also had four kickoff returns for 64 yards. He had a 75-yard touchdown run the first time he touched the ball for the Tigers in last year's opener against Troy.
Bellamy's biggest contribution might have come in the regular-season win over Virginia Tech, when he scored on a 31-yard touchdown run that clinched the victory.
Watkins wished Bellamy well. "Best of luck to Mike Bellamy! Wish him nothing but the best!!!," Watkins posted on Facebook.
The loss of Bellamy means that both of Clemson's high-profile recruits might be absent when the Tigers open the season against Auburn in September. Watkins was arrested earlier this month for possession of marijuana and a controlled substance. Swinney has promised Watkins will be punished, although he hasn't revealed what that will be.