Competition at running back is heating up

Competition at running back is heating up

Football

Competition at running back is heating up

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Going into spring practice, everyone knew the competition to be Clemson’s new starting running back was going to fierce.

So far, through nine practices, that has been the case.

Following Clemson’s scrimmage at Death Valley this past Wednesday, head coach Dabo Swinney broke down the competition, while praising new running backs coach C.J. Spiller.

“C.J. is doing an awesome job. I love how he is managing those guys. They are all in it. They are all competing,” Swinney said.

Lyn-J Dixon is expected to win the job, given his experience as Travis Etienne’s backup the last two years when he was healthy.

“I really like what I have seen out of Lyn-J. He has a fire under his rear. And I love it,” Swinney said. “There is a difference in running to a fire and running to get out of one. I like where he is at. He is highly motivated. He is playing very well for us.

However, as Swinney indicated, all the running backs are competing, and the competition is wide open.

The guy who has made perhaps the biggest move this spring is sophomore Kobe Pace. With Chez Mellusi and Michel Dukes nursing injuries early in the spring, Pace took advantage of his extra reps.

“Kobe has had a great spring. He has had a great nine days,” Swinney said.

Wednesday was the first scrimmage action for Mellusi this spring, but the Clemson coach thought he bounced back and had a good scrimmage. The same for Dukes.

“Both of them had gotten hurt, missed some practices, now they are back. Dukes did some good things,” Swinney said. “It is one of the really most competitive spots on our team. Kobe has been outstanding and [Darien] Rencher, we don’t ever talk about Rencher, but every time we put him in there, he does his job and makes a play.”

Then there are freshmen running backs Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. They both enrolled in school in January, and thus far they have picked things up and are competing like everyone else.  

“They are both natural players. They were both incredibly well coached in high school,” Swinney said. “They are coming from systems where they were asked to do similar things. So, I am really excited about both of those guys.

“They are way ahead of the curve. Just like those two freshmen receivers, they are way ahead of the curve from where a high school senior will typically be coming in here. They are not overwhelmed. It is not too big for them.”

Clemson is on spring break this week and the team will report back to campus on March 21. Practices will resume on March 22. The Tigers are nine practices into the spring and will have six remaining when they get back, including the Spring Game, which is set for April 3 at Death Valley.

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