Last year, Clemson co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Tony Elliott went down to Louisiana and stole running back Travis Etienne right out of LSU’s backyard.
Etienne, who is from Jennings, La., went on to set a Clemson freshman record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 13, while also leading the team with 766 yards and a 7.2 yards per carry average. He also had four touchdown runs of 50-plus yards, one of the best figures in the nation.
This year, at least through the first five days of camp, it appears Elliott has found another gem. Freshman running back Lyn-J Dixon has been the star of fall camp so far, and Wednesday, as the Tigers first put on the pads, he showed out during Paw Drill and in short yardage situations.
“I told Tony he had a horseshoe up his butt,” Swinney said laughing following Wednesday’s practice. “He has hit on two great ones two years in a row. He has gone to a couple of little small towns two years in a row and has found a special talent.”
Dixon showed his burst during Paw Drills as he hit the holes and blew right past the defenders without being touched.
“I think Lyn-J has shown in five days that he has the right stuff,” Swinney said. “He does not always go in the right direction and we have a lot of technique to clean up, but man, he is tough. He is tough. He likes it and he is fast.
“He has great vision. He made a couple of runs in short yardage. He had the two best runs in short yardage today. I’m just very encouraged. He has a lot to learn, especially as we keep installation coming and all of that. I have been very impressed with Lyn-J.”
Dixon was the No. 10 ranked running back in the nation by ESPN and Rivals coming out of high school in Butler, Ga. He averaged 108 yards per game and 8.9 yards per carry during his senior year at Taylor County High School.
He finished his high school career with 5,174 rushing yards and 73 touchdowns. He also caught 76 passes for 1,088 yards and nine more touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 7,201 all-purpose yards.
Dixon falls in line with Etienne and junior Tavien Feaster as running backs that have the ability to take the ball to the house every time they touch the football.
“It is a good situation,” Swinney said. “I told ya’ll before the year that if everything goes well, I think our backs have a chance to be a pretty good group. What I have seen so far in practice, I am very confident we are headed in that direction.”