Heading into his freshman season with Clemson, five-star recruit Will Shipley is the No. 2 running back in the 2021 class. And now with an all-time great Tiger coaching him along the way, the Matthews, NC native has an excellent opportunity to expand on that highly-touted talent.
After serving as a graduate assistant in 2020, former Clemson standout C.J. Spiller took over as the program’s running backs coach earlier this year. One of his first jobs at the new position was to coach the RB depth chart at this year’s spring practices.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Spiller gave his initial reactions on Shipley. The former ACC Player of the Year was impressed by his incoming freshman.
“He’s gonna be real good,” Spiller said. “Will did a great job of just coming in and really wanting to learn. He was very eager to come in and learn the playbook. He’s one of those guys that sometimes you might have to pull them back a little bit because they want to learn so much. You just want him to take it one day at a time. He comes from a great foundation in his high school up there in Weddington with his coach. You kind of see that translating over here to Clemson now. I’m excited about seeing him grow as a player. He’s going to hopefully have a special career here at Clemson.”
Spiller came out of high school as an elite athlete, a five-star recruit and the No. 4 running back in the nation back in 2006. As such, Shipley has already drawn comparisons to his new RBs coach with some outstanding potential of his own.
That being said, the former NFL Pro Bowler wants the freshman to forge his own path.
“I don’t want him to be like me,” Spiller said. “I want him to be like Will Shipley. That’s the thing that I tell him because I know those comparisons are going to happen. I don’t want that added pressure to him. I just try to tell him, ‘Go be Will Shipley.’ I’m going to give him the pointers of how I’ve seen it as a returner, but I don’t want him to be the same returner that I was. Go be better than I was. Go break the NCAA record if that happens. I’m going to give him all the knowledge, wisdom, and things I’ve seen as a returner, but don’t go back there and try to do what I did. That’s been really my biggest message to the guys this spring is go be yourself. I don’t want you to be anybody else but yourself, especially with Will.”
Despite 2020 starting running back Travis Etienne heading off to the league, the Tigers are still stacked at the position this coming season. Returning veterans Lyn-J Dixon, Darien Rencher, Michel Dukes and Kobe Pace are all set to battle for the starting position in 2021, but Shipley could make a push up the depth chart if he continues to impress throughout the year.