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What Lyn-J Dixon transfer means for Clemson football running backs

·3 min read

Before the season began, it appeared that Lyn-J Dixon was the one who’d succeed Travis Etienne as Clemson’s starting running back.

He was a top backup to Etienne for three consecutive seasons. And he entered 2021 second only to Etienne in the Tigers’ record books for average yards per carry, with 6.6 to Etienne’s 7.22.

On Monday, 17 days after the season began, Dixon told Tigers football coach Dabo Swinney that he intends to enter the transfer portal, though he will graduate in December.

While it comes as somewhat of a surprise, issues between Dixon and running backs coach C.J. Spiller began to surface, with Swinney mentioning that Dixon needed to “stay out of Spiller’s doghouse.”

Now, that means leaving Clemson altogether.

While Dixon and Spiller were working to get on the same page, other running backs began to make their case to be the starter.

Kobe Pace

When Dixon was held out of the Tigers’ season opener due to “team rules,” sophomore Kobe Pace got the start. Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott had spoken highly of the Georgia native during fall camp, noting how well he did as a freshman reserve behind Etienne last season.

“He’s much quicker and faster than what people give him credit for, for his size,” Elliott said of the sophomore on Aug. 11. “He’s very natural as a running back.”

Pace has started in two of the Tigers’ first two games of the season and records 88 rushing yards on the year.

Will Shipley

Freshman Will Shipley burst onto the scene and immediately impressed.

While he has yet to run out first, he’s currently Clemson’s leading rusher with 175 yards on 33 carries with four touchdowns and averaging 5.3 yards per tote in three games played. His only glaring mistake so far was a fumble in the end zone against Georgia Tech on Saturday to which he accepted responsibility, displaying a maturity Swinney has called rare in someone his age.

“That’s a rookie mistake and I’m glad that it, the outcome was what it was because I’m able to just learn from it and move on,” Shipley said, “not let it happen again.”

Shipley and Pace are listed as probable starters with Dixon listed third on Clemson’s depth chart, which was released Monday evening.

Phil Mafah and Michel Dukes

With Dixon’s pending departure, Swinney on Monday said it could “definitely” mean the collegiate debut of Phil Mafah and more opportunities for Michel Dukes.

Swinney had mentioned possibly redshirting Mafah, who has yet to appear in a game, but at this point that might not be an option for the Tigers. During the Sept. 14 weekly press conference, Swinney said the decision on whether or not to play the freshman is a “week-to-week type of thing.”

“But, we keep him up, we’re keeping him up. He’s not with the scout (team),” Swinney elaborated last week. “He’s ready to play every week, so if we need him, he’ll be ready to roll.”

Dukes’ only appearance so far this year was against S.C. State, where the junior tallied two carries for seven yards in the fourth quarter.

“We’ll see how Mikey responds and if he takes advantage of the opportunity and go from there,” Swinney said.

Clemson running back depth chart

The State’s projections

  • Will Shipley

  • Kobe Pace

  • Michel Dukes

  • Darien Rencher

  • Phil Mafah

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