CLEMSON, S.C. — This spring has been an unusual one for C.J. Spiller.
Clemson’s running backs coach has had just one scholarship running back available for spring practices, as Will Shipley and Kobe Pace have sat out the spring recovering from off-season surgeries. That left sophomore Phil Mafah available to get most of the first-team reps, while walk-on transfer Domonique Thomas and fellow walk-ons Tristin Rigby, Wise Segars and Kevin McNeal shared the rest.
“Those guys took advantage of the opportunity that was presented with those other two guys out this spring,” Spiller said after Monday’s practice behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex. “Those guys did the best job that they could, and I was very pleased with that. We still have a long way to go before we can still be the unit that we want to be this upcoming season.”
Mafah took advantage of his extra first-team reps.
“He has been unbelievable this whole spring,” Spiller said. “I think he took a gigantic step in his game, his leadership, he is more vocal.”
With Mafah getting so much work this spring, it means the Tigers have one of the more experienced running back rooms in the country this coming season. Spiller’s goal is to use all three of his talented backs in some capacity.
“All three of them bring something totally different to the table, which is what you like as the running backs coach, because every running back is different,” Spiller said.
Despite missing three games, Shipley led Clemson with 738 rushing yards last year, to go along with his team-high 11 touchdowns. Pace missed two games, but ran for 641 yards and scored six touchdowns, while Mafah rushed for 292 yards and had three touchdowns in nine games.
“Those three guys, you can put them on any team in America and they can go start,” Spiller said. “When you are talking about separation, it is going to be very slim because, we, as an offensive staff, feel very comfortable putting any of those guys in there and going in there and getting the job done.”
Heading into summer workouts, Spiller does not see much separation between the three.
“The thing I love about all three of them is that they love each other. They want to see each other be successful,” Spiller said. “That is very rare to find in college football these days when you have three guys that we have on our roster that can literally go to any other program and be the starter. But those guys are really happy for each other’s success.
“I don’t see where there is going to be a gigantic gap. It might be a slim one, but at the end of the day all three of those guys are going to play.”
The Tigers practice again on Wednesday before hosting their annual Orange and White Spring Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.