CLEMSON, S.C. — Phil Mafah got an opportunity this spring very few get in his position.
Mafah is the third man in a three-headed backfield at Clemson, which some consider one of the best in the country. Normally, the sophomore would have received some first-team reps in practice, but not as many if he was sharing the running back position with Will Shipley and Kobe Pace.
However, Shipley and Pace were held out of spring practices while recovering from off-season surgeries. As the lone scholarship running back available, Mafah got a ton of reps, which should benefit him and the Clemson offense greatly this coming season.
“I think it gave me the opportunity to show I can be the guy out there,” he said. “It allowed me to show what I can do and helped me clean up the other stuff.”
Though it made for a tough spring, Mafah embraced his role.
“I just told myself that I really need to get focused,” he said. “Really just know what I am doing, so I can show it. I really wanted to develop my leadership skills this spring and just connect with the guys.”
Last year, with Shipley and Pace both banged up at times, Mafah was forced to burn what was supposed to be a redshirt season. He ended up playing in nine games, while rushing for 292 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry and owned the team’s longest run from scrimmage, a 63-yard jaunt against Florida State.
Mafah is a power runner, who can break through arm tackles, while also displaying explosive speed when he gets into the open field.
“I feel like all of us our versatile. We all need to be there to have a successful backfield,” Mafah said. “I feel like I got a little better (this spring). Ship has speed. He is a strong guy, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Kobe can also catch out of the backfield, and he is strong. He is one the strongest running backs I know.”
Shipley ran for 738 yards and scored 11 rushing touchdowns last year. Both were team highs. He also had 16 receptions for 116 yards.
Pace ran for 641 yards and had six rushing scores, while also catching 12 passes for 131 more yards. Mafah had seven receptions out of the backfield for 50 yards.
Clemson will open the season on Labor Day Night in Atlanta when its plays Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.