TORONTO — C.J. Spiller was one of the few recruits that got away from Pete Carroll during his successful run as coach at USC.
Spiller ran a blazing 10.42 seconds in the 100 meters his senior year in high school, and was considered one of the top recruits coming out of talent-rich Florida in 2006.
But even after taking a recruiting trip to USC, Spiller settled on Clemson – a school much closer to home.
Now Carroll will face the talented Spiller for the first time as his Seahawks take on the Buffalo Bills today.
“I have tremendous respect for C.J. Spiller,” Carroll said. “I liked him as a young guy growing up, and tried to get him to come west and couldn’t do it. But I saw him as one of the great players we’ve ever came across and, boy, is he really turning it up.
“They run their offense around him, and he’ll get even more activity now. And that means that there is a chance for them to score on every play, run or pass. So we’ll see if our defense can get ready for that.”
So why didn’t Spiller choose USC?
“I am going to tell him (Carroll) that on Sunday,” joked Spiller. “I do not want to give him something for the bulletin board or something.”
In his third season, Spiller is finally living up to the immense potential league observers believed he had when Buffalo made him the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
The Bills’ selection of Spiller, along with already having productive Fred Jackson in the fold, allowed them to part ways with disgruntled Marshawn Lynch, who was traded to Seattle in October 2010. Lynch faces his former team for the first time today.
“That is my man,” Spiller said about Lynch. “The first time he saw me, he said, ‘You the fast dude. You the fast dude we got.’ He was great here. He worked hard. ... Both he and Fred gave me some inside scoop. He practiced hard, but at the same time he definitely kept our running back room very entertained.”
Spiller has 944 yards on 144 carries for a robust 6.6 yards per carry average, the highest in the league through 13 games since Jim Brown in 1963.
But Buffalo coach Chan Gailey has been reluctant to make Spiller his workhorse back. Spiller has carried the ball fewer than 10 times in six games this season, and totaled 37 yards on seven attempts against the Rams last week.
However, the expectation is that Spiller will carry the ball more because Jackson is out with a knee injury.
And this season Seattle has struggled with running backs that have a little wiggle in their game.
San Francisco’s Frank Gore totaled 131 yards in his team’s 13-6 win over Seattle. Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson exploded for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in a 30-20 loss to the Seahawks. Reggie Bush ran for 87 yards on 14 carries and a score in his Dolphins’ 24-21 win over Seattle three weeks ago.
“Yes, it’s similar, but with more screens with C.J. Spiller,” said Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, when asked how Spiller compared with Bush. “They’ll take their shots. A lot of times when teams get out in empty (no running back in the backfield) like we saw with (Chicago’s) Matt Forte, they’ll run slants. But with Buffalo, they’ll send C.J. deep and try to get a big play off of that. He’s extremely fast.”
While Spiller understands he has the talent to be a top back, he’s not taking it for granted.
“I am going to continue to get better,” Spiller said. “You cannot get satisfied off one season. To go from good to great, you have to be consistent.
“You look at all the great running backs in the Hall of Fame, and they have been able to do that year in and year out. Hopefully, one day, that is where I want to end up, so I have to be able to do that type of stuff.”
SEATTLE (8-5) VS. BUFFALO (5-8) AT TORONTO
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m., Rogers Centre.
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM, 1030-AM.
The series: The Bills hold a 6-5 edge in the series. The Seahawks have lost three of the past four dating back to 2000. In the last meeting, the Bills handed Seattle a 34-10 loss in Buffalo on Sept. 7, 2008.
What to watch: The Seahawks re-signed receiver Deon Butler on Saturday. A third-round draft choice by Seattle in 2009, the Penn State product was one of the final roster cuts in September. But with Seattle down to four receivers after Charly Martin was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list, the Seahawks decided to bring back someone familiar with the team’s offense. … Seattle will be without three of its top cornerbacks in Marcus Trufant (hamstring), Walter Thurmond (hamstring) and Brandon Browner (suspension). Byron Maxwell is expected to make his first career start, and rookie Jeremy Lane should see significant time.
The pick: Seahawks, 23-20.
No. Name (position), Ht., Wt., Yr.
24 Marshawn Lynch (RB), 5-11, 215, Sixth
He might not want to talk about it, but Lynch has some extra motivation playing against the team that traded him.
41 Byron Maxwell (CB), 6-0, 207, Second
Likely making his first career start at cornerback, the Hawks need a consistent effort from the former Clemson player.
54 Bobby Wagner (LB), 6-0, 241, First
The team’s leading tackler needs to use his trademark speed to keep Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller in front of him.
85 Anthony McCoy (TE), 6-5, 259, Third
Now that people know what kind of talent he has, can McCoy put together a repeat performance?
No. Name (position), Ht., Wt., Year
13 Stevie Johnson (WR), 6-2, 207, Fifth
Buffalo’s leading receiver could cause problems for Seattle’s depleted secondary.
28 C.J. Spiller (RB), 5-11, 200, Third
The speedy back will be asked to carry the load with Fred Jackson out because of a knee injury.
31 Jairus Byrd (FS), 5-0, 203, Fourth
One of the better safeties, the former Oregon Ducks star leads Buffalo in interceptions with five.
99 Marcell Dareus (DT), 6-3, 331, Second
Bills’ most stout defensive lineman will have to play tough against Lynch and Seattle’s running game.