Replacing Trevor Lawrence was an easier proposition for Clemson than replacing Travis Etienne.
Even casual college football fans knew Clemson had their Trevor Lawrence succession plan lined up with D.J. Uiagalalei ready to step in as the starter with Lawrence in the NFL.
However, the prospect of replacing Lawrence’s All-American backfield mate, Travis Etienne, wasn’t quite the clear-cut answer.
In fact, even Clemson football coaches aren’t quite sure who the starting running back will be for the season opener against No. 5 Georgia on Saturday night.
When offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was asked who the starting running back will be for the biggest game of the Week 1 schedule, the Tigers assistant wasn’t sure.
Clemson football depth chart: Who starts at running back vs. Georgia?
The No. 3 team in the nation had some departures to the transfer portal with Chez Mellusi and Demarkcus Bowman leaving the team in the offseason. Lyn-J Dixon was the No. 2 back on the depth chart to Etienne last year, finishing third on the team in rushing, behind Etienne and Lawrence with 190 yards. However, he’s not a lock to be the starter and reserve Kobe Pace may be limited to a third-string role as well.
True freshman Will Shipley looks like the leading candidate to be the starting running back vs. Georgia. The five-star recruit enrolled early and took part in spring practices. The No. 1 all-purpose back in the 247Sports Composite Rankings is ready for his opportunity should running backs coach C.J. Spiller give him the chance.
Running backs are among the positions most capable of playing an early role as freshmen and after enrolling early, Shipley is basically an elevated freshman at this point. He’s ready to run with the rock and prove he can live up to his recruiting status.
Once you enroll in college, recruiting rankings mean absolutely nothing, but Shipley has immense upside and gives Clemson the best chance to beat Georgia. He’s the most talented back on the Clemson roster and even if he doesn’t start the game, he should lead the team in carries and yards vs. Georgia and be the starter moving forward.
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