June 26, 2009
ESPN thinks C.J. Spiller is the best player in the ACC this fall. For the fourth year in a row, KaMichael Hall and Kenny Scott agree:
That wasn't even the only time he did that as a freshman, which is part of what makes Spiller such an interesting case. He's obviously versatile, dangerous every time he touches the ball and, as anyone who's watched Clemson since he exploded into the national consciousness in that '06 game against the Yellow Jackets can tell you, is prone to disappear for long stretches. Every time I've watched Clemson the last two years, at some point, I've thought, "Wait, what happened to C.J. Spiller?" Maybe it's the play-calling, or the fact that he's had to play second fiddle in the Tiger running game to James Davis as his rushing total drops by the season. Spiller had five 100-yard rushing games as a freshman; he's had three since, and none last year. Needless to say, with Davis gone, the draft looming and the "underachiever" sign around Clemson's neck glowing brighter than ever, this is kind of a big year for him.
But C.J. is a terror in other ways: He had his first 100-yard receiving games last year, and led the ACC in all-purpose yards. Maybe he's a victim of his own initial explosiveness: The fact that, three years in, he's still thought of largely in terms of his amazing potential may just be one of the inevitable consequences of setting the bar so high that first season. He reminds me of Kevin Faulk, the LSU running back who never quite seem to live up to his towering hype even while setting the SEC career for all-purpose yards in the mid-nineties; he eventually settled in for a long career as a role player on all those Patriot Super Bowl teams. Spiller is no role player, at Clemson or on the next level. But the only place to go from "spectacular" is "consistent," which seems to be the only quality separating him from all those visions he set off three years ago.