The ACC’s all-time leading rusher may be gone from Clemson’s running backs room, but Tigers coach Dabo Swinney believes the group still has a chance to be “special” this season.
Clemson has plenty of competition to replace Travis Etienne as Lyn-J Dixon, Michel Dukes, Phil Mafah, Chez Mellusi, Kobe Pace, Darien Rencher and Will Shipley are all vying for carries.
Swinney said all of the backs impressed in Clemson’s most recent scrimmage on Friday.
“They all made plays. They all ran tough. They all ran physical,” Swinney said. “We emphasized the run today offensively, really wanted to challenge our defense. I was just really impressed with every single one of them. We’ve got a very good group.”
Of the contenders, the senior Dixon is the favorite to land the job at this point.
He is second in school history in yards per carry at 6.6, behind only Etienne. And he has 1,372 career rushing yards.
However, the job is far from settled and the competition is likely to continue throughout the summer and into fall camp.
“I just thought they were tough. We had some guys make some big plays, long plays. But all of them showed up. Every single one of them. Not a single one of those running backs was disappointing today,” Swinney said. “I mean it’s a lot of competition at that position. That’s a group that has a chance to be special.”
New running backs coach C.J. Spiller is in his first season leading the group and said recently that each running back in his room brings something different to the table.
It’s Spiller’s job to continue to develop the group and pinpoint which rotation gives the Tigers the best chance to win.
“It’s been a very healthy competition. These guys, they’re going out and competing each and every day,” Spiller said. “They understand that each and every one of them brings something totally different to the football team. But they’re all going to help us be successful.”
As for how the competition stands at this point, Spiller declined to name a leader.
“I wouldn’t say we have a pecking order as in ‘Alright, this guy’s the No. 1 guy. This guy’s No. 2,’” Spiller said. “We have a long ways to go until we have to come out with an official depth chart.”