Heading into Clemson’s spring practices there were lots of concerns at the running back position. And though there are still a few, it seems as if Clemson’s elite depth at the position has everyone feeling much better.
The Tigers still do not have a replacement for the ACC’s all-time rushing and scoring leader in Travis Etienne. However, what they do have is a group of running backs some consider to be the best in the ACC.
Senior Lyn-J Dixon will go into fall camp at the top of the depth chart, but sophomore Kobe Pace is right on his heels after having a fantastic spring. Then there was the emergence of freshman running back Phil Mafah, who showed out in the spring game.
The coaching staff also liked the performance of fellow freshman Will Shipley in the spring. Both freshmen could play a big role in the Clemson running game this fall.
The Tigers also have junior Michel Dukes, who continues to progress, along with graduate Darien Rencher.
“They are all going to help us be successful,” new running backs coach C.J. Spiller said this past spring. “I would not say we have a pecking order that says this guy is on the depth chart as the number one guy and this guy is number two. I think, I can put anyone of those guys in there and they will be ready to go and play.
“But we still have a long way to go before we have to come out with an official depth chart, but that is the beauty of this sport. All the guys in that room know that someone has to run out there first. Then some guys have to be backups. But what I always tell the guys is that they are always just one play away from being the starter.”
Spiller, who was the 2009 ACC Player of the Year at Clemson, said that is the mindset he played with when he and James Davis were battling it out for playing time from 2006-’08. Davis is Clemson’s third all-time rushing leader behind Etienne and Raymond Priester.
“That is the mindset I always had as a player and that is what I want to instill into these guys that in this game you are always one play away from being a starter,” Spiller said. “So, don’t look at it just because you are a backup that you don’t have a chance to be a starter because you just never know what could happen in practice, what can happen in the game. So, if you don’t have that mindset then you will never be ready to be a starter.”
Clemson will kick off the season on Sept. 4 against Georgia at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
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