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Clemson Football

Ups and Downs: Phil Mafah Primed for Breakout Season in 2023

July 10, 2023


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In this series, we closely examine player stats from last season and decide what we expect to see from each Clemson star in 2023. 

Check out each story in our series below:

No. 1 Ups and Downs: Will Shipley

As Clemson gears up for the 2023 college football season, one player who is poised for a breakout year is running back Phil Mafah. After a solid sophomore campaign in 2022, Mafah looks set to significantly impact the field and play a crucial role in the Tigers' offense.

With the addition of Garrett Riley as the team's offensive coordinator, Mafah's potential for increased carries, yards, and touchdowns is certainly within reach.

In his sophomore year, Mafah showcased his talent and versatility, accumulating 98 carries for 515 yards and four touchdowns. These numbers, although impressive, were achieved while sharing the backfield with fellow standout Will Shipley.

"Most of these teams play multiple backs. The teams that are very successful in the end-- they've got multiple backs,” head coach Dabo Swinney said last season. “It's good to be able to have a one-two punch where you got guys that you can play in any situation.”

However, with Riley now at the helm of the offense, there is reason to believe that Mafah could see a larger workload.

Riley's arrival brings a renewed sense of optimism to Clemson's offensive scheme. During the 2022 season at TCU, Riley's offense averaged an impressive 5.21 yards per play. In contrast, Clemson managed just 4.56 yards per carry. With Riley's proven ability to maximize offensive production, it is reasonable to expect that Mafah will benefit from an enhanced system that better utilizes his skill set and should allow him to make some more noise.

“He's a guy nobody really talks about a whole lot,” Swinney said in December. “But he's a pretty special player. He's kind of a quiet guy but he plays loud.”

The passing game is one area where Mafah has yet to capitalize on his potential fully. Throughout his career at Clemson, Mafah has recorded just 16 receptions. However, much like Shipley, Mafah has the tools to become a valuable asset in the Tigers' passing attack. With Riley's penchant for creative play designs and his ability to involve running backs in the passing game, Mafah could become a dangerous dual-threat weapon, capable of punishing defenses on the ground and through the air.

Physically, Mafah possesses an impressive frame at 6'1" and 230 pounds, making him a difficult player to bring down. His power, agility, and vision allow him to break tackles and gain tough yardage, making him a formidable force in short-yardage situations. Mafah's size also makes him an excellent candidate for goal-line carries, where he could power through defenses resulting in more touchdowns.

The Tigers' rushing attack in 2022 ranked 47th in the nation, averaging 177.9 yards per game. With Riley's expertise and Mafah's talent, there is reason to believe that Clemson can improve upon those numbers and become a more dominant force on the ground.

With his combination of physicality, skill set, and the offensive changes brought about by Riley, Mafah has the potential to be an additional weapon on offense for Clemson. Whether it's pounding the ball between the tackles, catching passes out of the backfield, or finding the end zone, Mafah is primed for a breakout season.

Phil Mafah Carries Rushing Yards Total TDs
2022 98 515 4
2023 Projections ⬆️ ⬆️ ⬆️

Let us know what you think in the comments!

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Discussion from...

Ups and Downs: Phil Mafah Primed for Breakout Season in 2023

3,510 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 1 yr ago by 09Tiger
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I'm thinking Phil gets 125+ carriers, close to 1,000 yards rushing, and 8 TDs.

TCU's second-most productive back got 121, 681 yards and 6 TDs so I think that's a fair number for Phil. Not to mentions Duggan rushed 137 times at QB.
Tigers Rise
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I agree. Up, Up, Up. With Kobe Pace leaving, Phil's numbers will certainly go up in all areas. He's got great balance and power. Plus, sharing the workload saves Will a bit too.
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Put me down for 130, 800, 7 TDs
Barnyard Bird
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He's got to get more carries this season. Dude is a beast at times. I'd like to see him get to 10+ TDs being a workhorse at the goal.
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Barnyard Bird said:

He's got to get more carries this season. Dude is a beast at times. I'd like to see him get to 10+ TDs being a workhorse at the goal.
I think the comparisons to James Davis' running style are fair. I wonder how much of an impact Davis can have on him now that he's helping out with the team.
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