Clemson football will have something that it has never had before – a legit four-headed monster at running back. Position coach CJ Spiller is going to have in year one what many coaches never see their entire careers – four guys that will all play on Sunday in the future.
No, Clemson football isn’t the first program to have this problem. Oklahoma, Georgia, Auburn, USC, Alabama, and others have had similar problems over the last 25 years. But this is a first for the Tigers.
Senior Lyn-J Dixon has waited his time behind Travis Etienne and will get the first shot to carry the load for the Tigers. Behind him are sophomore Kobe Pace and true freshman Phil Mafah and Will Shipley. Of course, juniors Michel Dukes, Chez Mellusi, and graduate student Darien Rencher.
While Dukes, Mellusi, and Rencher have been in the system for several years and have become reliable to head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, they simply don’t have the talent that Pace, Mafah, and Shipley have.
That isn’t a knock on them at all, but there is no sugarcoating how good Pace, Mafah and Shipley are and that they are more complete running backs than those that have been here.
Seeing Shipley for the first time on Saturday in person – he looks like he has been in Coach Batson’s weight program for several years already.
Coming out of high school in the state of Georgia, I was told by several well-known longtime high school coaches in the state that Phil Mafah was the best running back that they had seen since the late 90s when Jamal Lewis came out of high school – some high praise and while it was just a bland spring scrimmage, he looks to be well on his way to living up to those opinions.
Clemson football has just one football to go around.
The talent on the 2021 version of the Tigers is undeniable. Like we said a year ago, this will be the most talented roster that Clemson football has ever had.
That said, once the post-spring depth chart comes out, there will be a few guys that transfer, and a couple of them will be from the running back position. When you have six players that are capable enough and talented enough to play, they will do whatever is necessary in order to play and that means hitting the transfer portal.
Looking at the running back, that more than likely means that juniors Michel Dukes and Chez Mellusi. While this obviously just a guess, it would be highly unlikely that guys that have already spent two years in a year program, get buried on a depth chart heading into their junior seasons, and stick around.
If Lyn-J Dixon isn’t the post-spring starter, he may seek other opportunities as well.
This is a great problem to have if you are CJ Spiller and the Tigers offense – though he will undoubtedly lose sleep at night over the next several months and he tries to figure out the rotation and how to get everyone involved as the season draws closer.