As classes start and fall camp draws to a close, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had a lot to say regarding the current state of his team. Although his team lost a talented running back in Travis Etienne to the NFL draft, Swinney isn’t worried. In fact, he is more than confident in the guys that are stepping up to fill his role.
“Our running back room is really good,” Swinney said. “I love those guys and I think we’ve got a great group. We’ve got a couple of true freshmen in [Will] Shipley and [Phil] Mafah that are going to be great players and every single day is a learning experience for them. Kobe [Pace], he’s a true sophomore, but he doesn’t really carry himself that way. He carries himself more as a seasoned veteran, that’s kind of how he goes about his business. Lyn-J’s [Dixon] got a ton of experience around here and we all know what he can do.”
With both rookie and sixth-year veteran experience in this year’s running back room, Swinney is excited to see the competition at running back heat up and to see the explosiveness of his backs come alive on the playing field.
“Mikey [Michel] Dukes just got a little later start to camp than the rest of the guys, so he was not in pads today [since] he’s still in the acclimatation period, but Mikey’s a guy that has kind of missed out on some early opportunity, but we’ll get him back rolling,” the 13-year head coach said. “[Darien] Rencher is a savvy veteran as well, so we’ve got a really good room. I’m confident in all those guys and think we’re going to have some explosiveness and some guys that can do some things in the passing game and so forth.”
While the talent at running back is there, Swinney knows the exposure and challenges that fall camp has brought will be the biggest difference makers come game time. For Swinney, helping his player’s encounter virtually every type of game situation, what the head coach call’s a ‘baptism by fire’, is truly what sets his team apart, year after year.
“It’s baptism by fire when you come on this practice field because you’re going to see every front, every coverage, every blitz,” Swinney said. “We don’t tip toe through the installation from a defensive standpoint, but in the end that’s really good when you start game planning, when you really start to pair things down. Every year, that’s one of the things I always see is that our guys, they’ve been exposed to so much on the practice field and it helps us on game day, for both sides.”