Phil Mafah ‘enjoys’ opportunity to be Clemson’s No. 1 running back in the spring

Phil Mafah’s opportunity to be the No. 1 running back on the depth chart in spring training is one he takes seriously.

Clemson’s rising sophomore has been pressed to act in what was supposed to be a redshirt season and is once again getting beneficial experience from Will Shipley – currently listed at +15,000 in the Heisman nominee odds for 2022, according to FanDuel Sportsbook— and Kobe Pace, who were the team’s top two rushers in 2021, retained.

“I really appreciate it,” said Mafah, the only participating stock running back this spring. “It’s really helped me gain confidence, build chemistry with other players, take on that leadership role. I really feel like that’s a good thing.”

That confidence was not there for Mafah last year. He “never got to be the guy” in 2021, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said, so when he came into the game he wasn’t comfortable.

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“I didn’t have that much confidence in myself,” Mafah said. “At the start of this year, I studied more, watched more movies, so I’m getting more confident, I’m starting to progress more. That’s something I want to work on this spring.”

Mafah still rushed for 292 yards and three touchdowns on 68 carries, but he didn’t play with the “tempo” he wanted. This is the biggest change this spring.

“Mafah is the man this spring and he’s done really well,” Swinney said. “He looked very, very good. Really thrilled with how he came into this role. What he will be exposed to this spring will really serve us when we get Kobe and Ship back. I had the chance to to have a really special band.”

Another area Mafah is striving to improve is his passing reception. He’s produced 50 yards on seven receptions and wants to see how that develops this spring.

“I feel like the receiving part of my game has always been important to me,” Mafah said. “I’ve been working on this since high school and I’m still working on this. I feel like I can stay on the court longer once I know how to really catch and become a threat.”

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