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Clemson has taken a few big swings at running backs in the 2023 recruiting cycle but each time the Tigers have come up empty.

Most recently, the program missed on 2023 RB Jeremiah Cobb, as the blue-chip prospect announced a commitment to Auburn on Friday. However, they were one of the three finalists and got an official visit from Cobb, something that can't be said about the first three backs that picked up offers in the 2023 class.

Richard Young, who picked up his offer in June of last year, did include Clemson in his group of seven finalists, but the Tigers did not get one of his official visits. Justice Haynes, who also picked up his offer last June, didn't include Clemson in his group of finalists. Both are considered Top-5 players at the position.

Clemson then offered Cedric Baxter Jr., out of Orlando, another Top-5 back, but never gained much traction with the talented prospect. That's when the staff turned its attention towards Cobb, offering back in May.

These misses come on the heels of the program struggling to attract a top-flight back in the 2022 class. Clemson missed on Trevor Etienne, the younger brother of Travis, as he eventually signed with Florida. Next up was Andrew Paul, but he would spurn the Tigers at the finish line, choosing instead to sign with Georgia. 

Clemson would eventually sign Keith Adams Jr, who absolutely has a lot of upside, but is seen as more of a developmental player. 

With so many misses in his first two recruiting cycles, some are starting to ask why, with many assigning blame to running backs coach C.J. Spiller, who is entering just his second season as an assistant coach at any level.

Obviously, Spiller is still fairly new to the recruiting process. For part of his first year on the job, he was forced to recruit from the phone or the laptop, due to a 15-month-long dead period that was in place due to the pandemic. On the road or not, it takes time to develop as a recruiter and today's recruiting world has dramatically changed since Spiller was recruited as a high school player. 

The reason the Tigers missed on the younger Etienne had far more to do with a player wanting to go out and carve his own path than it did any one coach. Not to mention, Spiller wasn't even the running backs coach when Clemson started recruiting Etienne. 

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Missing on Paul certainly can't be pinned on Spiller. Despite getting in late, Clemson all but had him locked up until Georgia came along and offered at the eleventh hour. Paul grew up rooting for the Bulldogs. It was always the offer he wanted and he wasn't turning that opportunity down.

Who knows for sure why Young and Haynes didn't ultimately choose Clemson. Could it have in part been due to an inexperienced running backs coach? Possibly. It could also just as easily been the fact that Clemson has three sophomore running backs on the roster, each capable of starting. Not one junior, one sophomore and one freshman, but three sophomores. 

Generally speaking, players the caliber of Young and Haynes want to play. And sooner rather than later. 

Or maybe there were other factors that played into Clemson not being able to land those two players. Recruiting tends to involve a lot of layers and more often than not when a team misses, there are a lot of factors in play. 

It's also easy to lose sight of the fact that Clemson has routinely been very meticulous in how they go about recruiting running backs. In the 2022 cycle, they basically recruited one player in Etienne. In the current cycle, knowing they need to sign just one, they have once again chosen to target one or two at a time and waiting on things to play out before moving on.

When it's not working, it's a philosophy that is frustrating to those on the outside looking in, but up until now, the way this coaching staff has approached the recruitment of running backs has been fairly successful. Players like Wayne Gallman, Kobe Pace, Will Shipley and the older Etienne come to mind. More importantly, it's also a philosophy that has been in place since before Spiller came on board.

Yes, the program has missed on several top running back targets in the past two classes. However, placing the blame solely on Spiller is short-sighted. It's one of those lazy takes, seeing as recruiting is more of a team effort. 

Patience can be a virtue. Spiller needs a little more time. Right now we still have a fairly small sample size and each recruitment tends to play out differently. Spiller does appear to have many of the characteristics needed to grow into a solid recruiter. 

Let's also see how this thing plays out. After all, there are still more than five months remaining until the beginning of the early signing period. We're not at the finish line just yet. And there are still a number of potential prospects remaining uncommitted. Talented ones at that. In the end, it's about the ones you get, not the ones you miss on. 

The Tigers, who went 10-3 in 2021 and finished 14th in the final Associated Press Poll, are the fourth team on FanDuel Sportsbook's list to win it all in 2022.

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