Heisman or NFL for Spiller?


by - Senior Writer -
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Spiller has averaged 11.1 yards per play every time he has touched the football over the last 3 games.

Gone in a flash of lightning, a heartbeat, the blink of eye.

Imagine that you are a college football defender, and your job is to tackle Clemson junior running back C.J. Spiller, the resident Tiger escape artist who has more moves than a bowl full of jell-o in an earthquake. You see him, he has the ball, and then he's just……..gone.

In the blink of eye.

Unfortunately for Clemson fans, that may also describe Spiller once this season ends and the lure of the big dollars and fame of the National Football League come calling. The Florida native may decide at that point to take his game to the professional level, leaving Clemson fans to wonder, what if…..what if he had stayed for his senior season?

What if Rob Spence had figured out two years ago what Dabo Swinney and Billy Napier seemed to know immediately…that the best weapon on the field has to be used to be effective? What if he had not hurt his hamstring against Wake Forest on Thursday night and missed the Georgia Tech game? Would the Tigers have still been in the running for the ACC title?

Since Swinney has taken over at the helm of the Clemson football program, he has tried to find ways to get Spiller involved more in the offense, and the results have been spectacular, to say the least, over the last three games: 31 rushes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, 16 receptions for 268 yards and two touchdowns, three punt returns for 40 yards, and three kickoff returns for 89 yards. Meaning he has averaged 11.1 yards per play every time he has touched the football.

Included in that total were some jaw-dropping plays that left defenders, coaches and fans alike shaking their head in wonder, thinking how someone could be there one instant, and in the next…..gone.

Swinney is certainly doing his part to make sure that Spiller knows he is wanted at Clemson, even saying on Tuesday that he would be the first in line to promote a "Spiller for Heisman" campaign in 2009 should he return for his senior season.

"Sounds like we have we have a "Spiller for Heisman campaign '09" ready to kick off," he told the media on Tuesday. "I think he is the best player in this conference and certainly one of the best in the country, and I would be willing to argue with anybody. He is a great football player, and that is what he has turned himself into. He has matured right in front of our eyes.

"C.J. has learned the game, and now he has learned protection, understanding reads, where your eyes are supposed to be, when to run it north-south and when to bounce it. He gets it. He is a great receiver out of the backfield or lining him up outside. He is the fastest guy on the planet during a football game. This game is not complicated, when you have good players, you get it (the ball) to them, you use them."

Spiller's resume, should he decide to leave Clemson, is already made, and Clemson fans will be left with the memories of the pass-and-catch his freshman year at Boston College, the shake-and-bake against Georgia Tech that same season, the spectacular catch-and-run against Duke this past Saturday.

Everyone will have a memory, and there may be memories yet to be made, but Clemson fans may need to enjoy every moment he is on the field the final two or three games this season, because one moment he might be here, and the next….gone.

On Tuesday, Spiller said that the last few weeks have been some of the most fun he has since he has been at Clemson, and thanked Swinney and Napier and his teammates for being supportive.

"This has been a lot of fun, and I have been enjoying myself playing," Spiller said. "Coach Swinney and Billy have doing a great job of putting me in space, and taking advantage of my speed and ability, and I thank them for that. My teammates have been so supportive of me as well. I just try to go out there and do what I can to help win football games."

Given his recent run of successes, Spiller is now projected as a first round draft pick, and if he performs even marginally well at the NFL combine, he could very well be a Top 10 pick when next April's NFL draft rolls around. The Clemson football team will be closing out spring practice, and Spiller could be trying to figure out which house to buy.

Spiller was non-committal when asked on Tuesday if he had a leaning, one way or the other, even when told that Swinney was already pushing for a Heisman campaign.

"That just shows you how much faith Coach Swinney has in me and my ability to make a play," Spiller said. "I think that speak volumes about him as a man and as a football coach. But he also understands that I will make the best decision for me and my family, but I will also listen to his advice, and what he has to say."

Say it quick, Dabo. Before he's gone.

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