There is no shortage of hype surrounding Clemson freshman running back Will Shipley, a former five-star prospect ranked as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back coming out of Weddington (N.C.) High School.
Expectations for Shipley entering his first season with the Tigers in 2021 are high, but former Clemson offensive lineman and current ACC Network analyst Eric Mac Lain believes Shipley will live up to his billing and then some, based on what Mac Lain has heard from offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
“Freshmen here now, they come up and they want to be at the front of the line,” Mac Lain said during the ACC Network’s telecast of the ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte. “These guys want to play, and we might see that early and often by a guy, Will Shipley, the running back who is kind of Mr. Do It All. He’s a very interesting prospect, a guy that coming in had so much hype. And then you talk to offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, he is as advertised – he is better than advertised. So, you’ve got to be excited to see that.”
Clemson doesn’t have a clear-cut “alpha dog” in its running back room following the departure of Travis Etienne, though the Tigers are deep at the position and have plenty of talented options as they try to fill the void left by Etienne.
Senior Lyn-J Dixon and sophomore Kobe Pace are listed as co-starters at running back on Clemson’s pre-fall camp depth chart, with Shipley listed behind those two.
However, while Mac Lain thinks Dixon will open the 2021 season as the lead running back, he wonders if Shipley will emerge as the featured back by season’s end.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see, what does Clemson decide to do at the running back position?” Mac Lain said. “We’ve seen it with quarterback. We saw it with Kelly Bryant being the starter, Trevor Lawrence coming in. Two years before that, we saw a senior at quarterback, Deshaun Watson, slowly but surely takes it over. Now Lyn-J Dixon is going to be the guy to start. But is it Will Shipley’s show by the end of the year?”
Mac Lain sees Shipley – who rushed for 4,173 yards and racked up 1,411 receiving yards to go with 80 total touchdowns in his three-year high school career – being utilized in a versatile way on Clemson’s offense, similar to how Etienne was deployed as both a weapon out of the backfield and in the passing game.
“I think he could be that guy that slides out and even be at a slot, be back at the running back position to be a receiver,” Mac Lain said of Shipley. “He’s that good of a weapon.”
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