SPARTANBURG, S.C.– Christian McCaffrey lined up in the backfield.
McCaffrey lined up wide right.
McCaffrey lined up in the slot left.
No wonder backup running back Cameron Artis-Payne laughed when asked if the former Stanford star has gotten too much hype during training camp.
“What?” Artis-Payne said. “That’s a funny question. He’s a great player. The stuff he’s done has been very exceptional action. If you see him in the open field, every time he’s lined up one-on-one, we know he’s going to win.
“So he’s got the right amount of hype.”
“We’ve got some stuff in for Christian,” he said.
A lot of stuff.
McCaffrey also has lined up in the Wildcat and taken direct snaps. On Friday, he ran the option to one side with quarterback Cam Newton lined up wide. On the next, he handed off on a reverse.
The way McCaffrey has handled the load — which, by the way, none of the backs is capable of doing at such a high level — makes him arguably the most valuable player in the Wofford College portion of camp that ends today.
“There’s some really good things, and there’s some things a lot of people haven’t seen, which is good,” coach Ron Rivera said of the wrinkles Shula has added. “We’ll just keep developing the offense.”
Is there anything McCaffrey can’t do? Stanford offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren initially was speechless when asked that question on ESPN 730’s “Inside the Lair.”
“I don’t know. Great question,” he said. “I don’t have one [an answer].”
After being pressed, Bloomgren reminded that in three years with McCaffrey, he couldn’t find one thing the eighth pick of the draft couldn’t do.
“I would’ve put him at guard and pulled him if we had another back like him,” he said. “I mean, the kid is unbelievable. I have no idea what to tell you about what Christian McCaffrey can’t do. He threw touchdown passes, caught touchdown passes, returned kicks for touchdowns.
“I’m not trying to sound like a superfan. I just can’t give you an answer. I’d love to find something Christian couldn’t do — to challenge him and watch him overcome it.”
McCaffrey won’t replace anybody on the Carolina offensive line, but he offers the Panthers position flexibility in that they could keep one fewer wide receiver because of all he can do. That would give the staff the option of keeping depth at another position with more concerns.
Seriously, how much time would the sixth wide receiver get on the field if you already have McCaffrey, along with Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, second-round pick Curtis Samuel (hamstring) when he’s healthy and Damiere Byrd?
McCaffrey can also return punts and kickoffs, but that’s a story for another day.
“He does give us position flexibility,” Rivera said. “The guy is a tremendous talent for us, fits exactly what we do. There’s some things we can do differently with him that I look forward to exploring as we move forward.”