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Dabo Swinney sends strong message to Lyn-J Dixon
Dabo Swinney did not hold back in his postgame press conference. (Icon Sportswire/Getty Images)

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney did not mince his words after Saturday’s blowout win over South Carolina State. Asked about Tigers running back Lyn-J Dixon, who carried the ball just four times, Swinney did not hold back.

Dixon was widely expected to be Clemson’s starting running back this season, especially early on. But in two games, the senior only has touched the ball five times. He racked up 27 yards and a touchdown Saturday; true freshman Will Shipley finished with a team-high 80 rushing yards.

“He just needs to grow up,” Swinney said. “It’s that simple. He needs to be a team player. Just grow up. He’s a very good player, obviously he’s very talented, we’ve seen that. But just need him to stay out of Spiller’s dog house, that’s really it.”

Swinney is referring to C.J. Spiller, Clemson’s running backs coach and former Tigers star. If the Tigers were hard-pressed for talented tailbacks, this could be a non-issue. But Dixon is part of a stacked running back room with Shipley and sophomore Kobe Pace.

The margin of error for Dixon is small. And while the Tigers want to use their depth at the position, Swinney and Spiller aren’t scared to have a bell-cow back similar to the role Travis Etienne played. Dixon entered the season with the most experience in Clemson’s running back room, but that doesn’t seem to matter much when it comes to playing time.

C.J. Spiller working to keep ‘high standard’ in Clemson tailback room

The Clemson tailback turned running backs coach has had to readjust over the last year. When he joined Dabo Swinney’s staff as a grad assistant last August, Spiller immersed himself in the program to find his coaching style and learn how Tony Elliott runs Clemson’s offense. So when he was promoted to running backs coach in February, he had an idea of how he wanted to approach the job.

Spiller knows what the standard is in the running back room at Clemson — he helped set it. But now he is at the helm of the room, tasked with keeping the tradition and standard at a high level.

“I understand there is a high standard in this room,” he said last week. “I don’t take that for granted and I understand that it is a blessing to be in the position I’m in because it’s not every day you get to coach at your alma mater.”

Spiller’s first task since taking the job has been to ready the room for this season, especially after Travis Etienne’s departure for the NFL. The most prolific running back in ACC history, Etienne leaves a vast hole at the tailback position. But Spiller has a talented room to work with and he hasn’t been afraid to make tough decisions early on.

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