For the first time in three seasons, the Clemson Tigers go into a season without Travis Etienne penciled in as the starting running back.
Lyn-J Dixon has patiently waited his turn behind Etienne, and heading into his senior season, all signs point to Dixon being first in line to take that spot atop the depth chart.
However, the Tigers have a loaded running back room that is littered with talent. Chez Mellusi and Kobe Pace are right on the heels of Dixon and according to offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, both of those guys are pushing Dixon hard.
“Kobe is a guy that caught everybody’s attention early on (last year),” Elliott said. “It was a situation where so many guys had more knowledge than him. So, I see he is going to be a guy that going to be pushing Lyn-J at the top. Chez was starting to come into his own in the back half of the season with the opportunities he was getting, so now he is pushing up there at the top.”
Clemson also just signed two elite running backs as part of its 2021 recruiting class and both are already on campus. While Shipley received much of the attention during the recruiting process, Elliott said on Wednesday it was Phil Mafah who was turning heads.
“Today, in our work, Phil Mafa, he flashed,” Elliott said. “Everybody is like. ‘Man, that is a big guy.’ Until today everything had been controlled, but we got out of the way and he popped a big-long run. You saw that explosion that he had. Shipley, every time we see that cat, he is flying around, hundred miles an hour. The best thing is there is competition there and we got nine more days for those guys to really compete.”
Although, as good as those two young freshmen have looked, Elliott circled back and said there is no doubt where the competition is when it comes to the spots up towards the top of the depth chart.
“The guys I would say are showing the most right now will be Chez and Kobe.”