For the past two years, Clemson had the luxury of knowing that one of the nation’s best backs would be getting the bulk of the carries each and every week.
With Travis Etienne now off to the NFL, the Tigers now look for their next star running back. While Lyn-J Dixon is the popular choice as to who will get first crack at filling that role, there are a number of very talented ball carriers behind Dixon on the roster.
Not only are those backs talented, they are big and physical. Head coach Dabo Swinney says the team actually has more size in their running back room now than they’ve had in quite some time.
“It’s probably the biggest we’ve been in that room for a while,” Swinney said. “We got some big dudes, man, that’s for sure.”
Behind Dixon, the Tigers have a pair of backs entering their third years in the program in Chez Mellusi and Mikey Dukes. They also have two highly touted, dynamic freshmen in Will Shipley and Phil Mafah. Not to mention the experienced veteran Darien Rencher, who is now entering his sixth season.
“I mean Mafah is a natural big kid, he’s smooth,” Swinney said. “Shipley’s got great size, and Kobe is a grown man. None of those guys are little. I mean, they’re all put together. Chez is put together. Mikey Dukes is a big strong physical kid. So it’s a really, really good group.”
Coaching the group is none other than the legendary C.J. Spiller. The all-time Clemson great served as a graduate assistant last year, has now moved into a full-time role as the running backs coach, and Swinney said he brings something to the table that every back on the roster can benefit from.
“Great knowledge… great knowledge,” Swinney said. “A lot of confidence in what he’s doing. He’s 33 years old now and he’s well prepared to do what he’s doing. He’s had a vision for this for a long time. I don’t think he knew when that time would come, but he said he’d had a vision for what he wanted to do and it’s just it’s been awesome.”
At the end of the day, it it’s hard not to hear the excitement in Swinney’s voice every time he talks about his running backs, especially when he starts talking about their physicality.
“It’s a physical group from top to bottom, and I’m excited about that,” Swinney said.