The Clemson Tigers have entered the "Transformation Phase" of their year. It's a time when they'll prepare their bodies and minds for the grueling season, starting with summer workouts and the ensuing fall camp.
Today we look at three running backs who need to have a transformational summer:
1. Kobe Pace: Pace already had a monster spring capped off by 69 yards on six carries in the Orange and White game. Pace's placement on this list isn't an indicator of lousy play, but more of an applaud to the level of talent around him. Yes, Pace was the highest rusher to cap off the spring game, but with veterans not on this list like Lyn-J Dixon and Michel Dukes, Pace can't afford to slow down.
T-Heaviest on the depth chart with freshman Phil Mafah, Pace packs a punch at 5-foot-10 and showed the Travis Etienne-esque ability to bounce off arm tackles in just a few carries. Pace has already been a popular pick to take over the No. 1 running back spot but will need to carry his momentum through summer and into fall camp to compete with his elder ball carriers come September.
2. Darien Rencher: The only sixth-year senior on the Clemson offense, Rencher is a strange fit into C.J. Spiller's newly inherited running back room. Minus walk-on Kevin McNeal, the Tigers legitimately stand seven deep; the only knock on the latter half of the seven being pass protection concerns due to inexperience.
If nothing else, Rencher serves as a voice and leader next to fellow senior Dixon. If Rencher would prefer any other role on the field, a massive summer is in order as the only returner with fewer carries than Rencher in 2020 was Pace, who is sure to leap past him barring injury. Knowledge of the system and playbook is an enormous advantage over many of his peers. Still, Rencher may not have all of the physical tools to consistently stay in the coaching staff's favor without a proper offseason.
3. Chez Mellusi: Unlike Rencher, Mellusi has shown several flashes on the field but only got a limited opportunity with Etienne still around. In only 27 carries last season, Mellusi accumulated 151 yards at a 5.6 yards per carry average, second-highest on the team, and added a receiving touchdown, a critical strength when deciphering who is better than the other on this Clemson depth chart.
At first glance of the spring game box score, you might say Mellusi has regressed from his standing in 2020, only averaging two yards per carry on five attempts. With such a limited sample size, though, it's impossible to truly tell yet how Mellusi fits in the puzzle for Clemson. With a tedious summer, Mellusi has another chance before the season begins in fall camp to show his improvements to the coaches, as well as the media, who didn't hear his name called too often this spring.
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