Update 24 December 2009:
Well, Spiller turned in a fantastic season that had him in the Heisman discussion and has cemented him as a first round pick. He turned in his first 1,000-yard season and first 10+ TD season since his 2006 freshman season (1,145 yards and 11 TD). Spiller cracked 200 carries for the first time, hitting 201 to be precise, good for 43% of Clemson’s total. Spiller also picked up 445 receiving yards on 33 carries and will be a deadly option in the NFL. He was once again a feared kick returner, bringing 4 returns to the house. Spiller ran back a punt return and even threw for a TD, giving him scores in 5 different ways.
Spiller really picked up his play in 2009. He looked better in pass protection, he looked stronger, he ran tougher and he was pretty consistent for the first time in his career. His only bad game was a 9 carry for 18 yard showing in a 34-17 loss to South Carolina on November 28. He followed that up with a 20 carry 233 yard 4 rushing TD performance against Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, but couldn’t lead the Tigers to victory, falling 39-34.
The 2009 ACC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, Spiller has been named to the 2009 Walter Camp 1st Team All American as a KR and Walter Camp 2nd Team as a RB. He was the only ACC player named to the Camp 1st Team. The Media named his a 1st Team All-ACC as a KR and 2nd Team as a RB. Coaches selected him as a first team All America pick as a specialist. Spiller got robbed a bit in the Heisman process, finishing 6th with 26 first place votes and 223 voting points, the most ever by a Clemson player. He was named MVP of the 2009 ACC championship despite the loss to the Yellowjackets.
Spiller looked much improved this year and easily slid right into the starting tailback role for Clemson. His performance throughout the season silenced a lot of doubts about his ability to withstand a pounding, run between the tackles and pass block. Spiller is such a great athlete with such outstanding speed that his size will not be an issue if used correctly and played to his strengths. Put him in motion, get him the ball in space and watch him go. He’s a natural pass catcher who will be a very difficult matchup for most LB. He’s proved that he is a special talent this year and he will likely go lower than he should come draft time.
13 May 2009
There potentially could be a tremendous crop of runners available next year, especially if some of the top juniors declare. At the top of list, for seniors at least, is Clemson’s CJ Spiller, one of college football’s most explosive players. The one caveat with CJ Spiller is that he has not been the Tigers’ lead back and may not be one in the pros.
Spiller has been deadly as the second option to the departed James Davis, proving to be a versatile threat and an incredibly explosive player capable of breaking off huge plays at any moment. Now he must prove that he can do it without Davis sharing the load. It’s also worrisome that Spiller’s rushing production has decreased every season since his freshman year (938 yards-768-629). His receiving production, on the other hand, has risen each year (210-271-436). Spiller has also set a school record with 12 TD of 50-yards or longer and became the first Tiger with 50+-yard scores both running and receiving in the same game.
The 2009 season will be all about Spiller proving he can handle being the workhorse for Clemson. He has the speed, vision and open-field moves to be one of college’s most productive players but he has a small frame that will take a pounding. I love Spiller’s patience, ability to burst through a hole and a knack for making himself smaller to tacklers. In the open-field, Spiller has the second and third gears to break through a secondary and turn the corner against elite defences.
He is a very natural pass catcher who may require a corner to cover him because few defensive players will be able to keep pace with him through his routes. Spiller is like a Reggie Bush knock-off who can be utilized in many different ways on offence, provide a spark on special teams and pair with another runner to give a team a plethora of options. It’s likely that in order to reach his full potential Spiller will need to be the change of pace to a bigger runner.
Spiller will have a tough time convincing NFL types that he can be a team’s lead runner and is still looking for his first 1000-yard campaign, unable to take carries away from James Davis. Now Clemson must rely on him to take pressure off of the unproven Willy Korn, the likely starting QB next year for Clemson.
Spiller, despite his gifts, lacks toughness, strength and a willingness to fight for extra yardage. Spiller too often looks to make a move that is not there instead of lowering a shoulder and generating a push, something he is either unwilling or unable to do and something that will keep him from reaching elite status as a pro. His durability will be questioned at 5’11” 195lbs and pass blocking has not been his forte, another factor that may keep teams from putting their faith in him. If Spiller can prove he can run between the tackles consistently and be effective in short yardage, he will be a high draft pick; if not, and he may slip to the third or fourth round.
Staying injury free and posting his first 1,000-yard season will go a long way in solidifying Spiller as a 1st round pick but if he has just an average season or worse, he could find himself taking a huge plummet down draft boards because there are already so many questions about his ability to translate to the next level. Teams will be hesitant to spend a high pick on a RB who will not be a true workhorse even if his speed seems enticing.
The junior class will also have a large impact on where Spiller goes in the draft. There is an awful lot riding on Spiller’s senior season and coming into 2009 I have him rated as a 2nd round prospect who is looking at either taking a big jump up boards or a sharp drop down them.