C.J. Spiller's Reward Will Be an NFL First Round Draft Pick

Chad HensleyCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2009

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 21:  C.J. Spiller #28 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with fans after a 34-21 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers at Memorial Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The greatest running back in Clemson Tigers history—C.J. Spiller—is a first team All-American by every respected group that gives out such awards—but not as running back.

Spiller came up short in both the Heisman and Doak Walker award.

He was named the ACC Player of the Year, but was second Team All-ACC running back.

The critics  have come up with all kinds of reasons for not giving Spiller his due.

As you read this, remember that Spiller has suffered from turf toe and has been at 90 percent since the first game of the year.

Doak Walker

Critics: Spiller isn't a "pure" running back like Stanford's Toby Gerhart or Alabama's Mark Ingram.  

I thought catching the ball out of the backfield was part of being a running back?  His 445 yards receiving and four touchdowns is by far the best out of the three.  He averaged 5.7 yards per carry, the same as eventual winner Gerhart. 

He also was only one of two running backs to rush for 100-plus yards against TCU's defense.

And this was all done behind a porous offensive line with a redshirt-freshman quarterback.

Seriously, if all three were on the same team, who would start?  My money is on the guy who was clocked at 28 m.p.h. by ESPN.


Critics: Spiller wasn't even the best running back, how could he be the best player?

I thought the Heisman went to the best player in the country, not the best player at his particular position?

Scoring five different ways, Spiller accounted for 21 touchdowns—11 rushing, four receiving, four on kickoff returns, one on a punt return and one passing.  Nine of them were from greater than 50 yards. 

He recorded a touchdown in every game this year—the only college football player to do so.

He also set the career NCAA record for most kickoff returns for touchdowns with seven. This year he returned one out of every five kickoffs for a touchdown, and that is just when teams kicked to him.  Clemson's average starting position on each drive was the 38.

Did Gerhart or Ingram do that?  Did teams change their entire special teams strategy and focus their defensive gameplan on either of them?

Nebraska's Ndamuko Suh went six games without a sack.  Tim Tebow? Next.  Colt McCoy?  He has an argument. 

But even if Spiller wasn't going to be the Heisman winner, shouldn't he have at least been invited to New York?

What Really Matters

Gerhart and Ingram can keep their awards, because Spiller is about to get what really matters—a big fat NFL check that comes with being a first rounder in the 2010 NFL draft.

If there are any doubts about Spiller's abilities, it will be settled at the NFL combine in February.

Spiller fits the mold of Chris Johnson, the Tennessee Titans running back who is nearing 2000 yards this season. 

With C.J.'s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, world class speed, and willingness to run between the tackles, teams will be salivating.

And yes, Spiller does run between the tackles, although the pundits who have never watched him play will say he doesn't.  

I don't know this as fact, but I would say that more than 75 percent of Spiller's touchdowns this year came between the tackles.  Give the guy a crease, and it's six.

Spiller will need to work on picking up the blitz, as well as staying healthy, if he wants to be a big time player at the next level.

As for Gerhart, hope he has fun being a third or fourth rounder and becoming an H-Back.  Ingram? He will be a second rounder, as those type of running backs are a dime a dozen.

I can see Spiller getting drafted in the top 15, especially after the year Johnson is having. He will finally get the respect he deserves.


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