CLEMSON — Clemson North, otherwise known in this part of the country as the Buffalo Bills, fortified its reputation when Rex Ryan (the father of Seth, a Tigers walk-on receiver) was brought in as the new head coach.
There’s a catch, though: the Bills’ most prominent Clemson rep might not be there for long.
C.J. Spiller, the Tigers’ 2009 All-American running back and common visitor to Clemson games today, is approaching free agency after playing the first five years of his pro career in Buffalo. His contract year was marred by a season-ending collarbone injury in October.
“Physically, I’m back to 100 percent, back to doing normal activities,” Spiller told The Post and Courier on Friday. “As far as football, free agency will start in March, and I’ll get with my people next week and get a game plan together.”
Indeed, Spiller’s agent, Chad Speck of Knoxville (Tenn.)-based Allegiant Athletic Agency, has been in talks with the Bills all season, but Spiller sounds content to test the waters in six weeks.
“I guess you could say it’ll be March Madness,” Spiller said with a smile. “It’ll be a fun March.”
Spiller’s best year was 2012, when he tallied 1,703 total yards and eight touchdowns from scrimmage. His numbers dipped to just 300 yards on 78 carries this year, but Speck isn’t worried.
“When you look at C.J. Spiller’s first four years, guys with a minimum of 500 carries or more, he’s second all-time in the history of the National Football League in yards per carry,” Speck said Monday. “That’s a premier player.”
Spiller’s limited production and seven games missed due to injury kept him from teaming often with receiver Sammy Watkins, the Bills’ 2014 first-round selection and Clemson’s highest-ever draft pick at No. 4 overall.
Now that Ryan’s in charge, Spiller waits and observes, considering the Bills will be shifting offensive philosophies under new coordinator Greg Roman.
“I talked with their front office, the general manager (Doug Whaley) at the Senior Bowl last week,” Speck said. “We continue to have dialogue there. They clearly have a lot of changes, change in head coach and offensive coordinator and system altogether, so they’ve got some evaluation on their end.”
Spiller said he hasn’t been back to Buffalo since Ryan was hired, but he knows him from times such as the sideline at the Russell Athletic Bowl.
“Great guy, humble guy, funny,” Spiller said. “Every time I talk to a former player that played for him, they always say you’re going to love him. He’s a player’s coach, he takes care of his guys, but at the same time, he’s going to get the work out of you. I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
It’s a fairly loaded class of free-agent running backs besides Spiller: Dallas’ DeMarco Murray, San Francisco’s Frank Gore, Miami’s Knowshon Moreno, New Orleans’ Mark Ingram, Oakland’s Darren McFadden, San Diego’s Ryan Mathews and Baltimore’s Justin Forsett are also on the market.
“You have not seen a premier running back hit the market in the last several years,” Speck said. “Guys like Arian Foster, Lesean McCoy, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, those deals got done prior to the player ever reaching the free-agent market. So it’s a little bit of unknown.”
Speck also represents former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who was quickly cut from the Jets following his sixth-round selection. Boyd recently worked out with the Redskins, expects to work out with others in the coming months, and has considered a stint with the Canadian Football League.
“We’ve seen a number of quarterbacks hone their skills there before coming back down to the U.S.,” Speck said. “That’s absolutely an option for Tajh, that he could decide later in spring should the right opportunity not materialize.”