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Why Clemson RB coach thinks Will Shipley landed in perfect spot with Eagles

Clemson running backs coach C.J. Spiller explains why he thinks Will Shipley landed with the right NFL team.

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Clemson running backs coach and former Pro Bowler C.J. Spiller thinks Will Shipley couldn’t have found a better NFL landing spot.

There’s one big reason: Saquon Barkley.

“We always talked about that,” Spiller said in a recent interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Ashlyn Sullivan for Birds Huddle. “That was always one of my messages to him. I just hope that you go to an organization that has a veteran guy that can really just take you up under their wing and show you what it means to be a pro.”

Getting to learn from a guy like Barkley is a great opportunity and one Shipley is excited about.

Even upon his arrival to rookie camp, before the veterans joined them for OTAs, the Eagles’ fourth-round running back was already talking about learning as much as he can from Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick and two-time Pro Bowler.

Barkley, 27, was a captain with the Giants and is already assuming a leadership role in the Eagles’ running back room.

“I feel like [Shipley] can help us out,” Barkley said last week. “And, for me, him picking my brain, we’re both kind of learning at the same time right now because I’m in a new play book, new system. But I’ll just try to be the best teammate I can for him. And looking at the running back room, I think it’s the first time I’m the oldest guy in the room. So that’s definitely funny to me and there’s beauty in it too. You see how fast your time goes in here and when you’re having fun with it, time flies by.”

Like Barkley, Spiller was a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. Spiller was taken 9th overall back in 2010 and while his career was shortened by injuries, he was a Pro Bowler in 2012 with over 1,200 rushing yards in 16 games. So he knows about high level running back play.

He also knows a lot about Will Shipley.

Spiller was hired as Clemson’s running backs coach in 2021 after working as an unpaid intern in 2020. So he was with Shipley for all three of his seasons in college. Shipley is Spiller’s first player to get drafted.

Because of that knowledge of Shipley, Spiller knows the rookie is going to be a sponge around Barkley.

“He’s going to ask a lot of questions because he wants to know. He wants to know the why,” Spiller said. “He couldn’t have went to a better situation than having Saquon, a guy that has done it for a long time, has been very productive in the NFL, and he comes off as a guy that’s willing to give back to the younger guys. I’m happy for him. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing how the relationship builds over the course of OTAs and then obviously training camp and then the season. It could be something that continues to build because everything comes down to trust and that’s something Will understands and he’s going to work on that and he’s going to let those guys know he’s someone they can trust and depend on.”

The Eagles are obviously going to rely heavily on Barkley in 2024. They didn’t sign him to a top-of-the-market three-year deal to run a heavy rotation. But Shipley and incumbent No. 2 Kenny Gainwell will get some playing time too.

But even if Shipley doesn’t have a huge role on offense, he might be able to help on special teams. Shipley said he has already been studying the new kickoff rules to prepare for a potential role.

Shipley was a kick returner for the Tigers, averaging 26.6 yards per return. And Spiller thinks he could help the Eagles as a returner too. 

“With the new rule, that’s a huge weapon to have,” said Spiller, who was a returner himself in the NFL with two career return touchdowns. “He has a great feel. I think anytime a running back can be a returner because it’s almost the same thing. You just see the field totally different than a lot of other players on the team. He obviously brings that toughness. Him having that background at Clemson, I think it’s juts going to translate over with that new rule. I think it should hopefully work in his benefit.”

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