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Marcus Tate: Overcoming Injury, Embracing Change, and Reigniting his Love for the Game

August 12, 2023


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On Saturday, November 19, No. 9 Clemson defeated Miami 40-10 at Death Valley to improve to 11-1 but lost starting left guard Marcus Tate to a knee injury. The injury caused Tate to miss the remainder of his sophomore season. On Tuesday, the junior elaborated on the severe injury, including specific details of what happened to his knee. 

"I tore my MCL, my MPFL-- because my kneecap fell out and went back in-- and then I tore a part of my patella," Tate said earlier this week in Tiger Town. "It was pretty intense, but the way I looked at it is like, it's something I had to deal with. If I had a bad attitude about it, I know I wouldn't have gotten back the way I did."

Tate said he attacked the unfortunate situation daily and aggressively worked on himself, his body and locked in throughout the rehabilitation process. As a result, he is fully healthy and the circumstances allowed him to improve and renew his focus.  

"My focus is way better than it has been the previous two years just because of this," he said. "So I knew I really had to take advantage of the opportunity to get better and really just focus on my rehab. That's what it allowed me to do."

Clemson offensive lineman Marcus Tate (74) at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex during practice in Clemson, S.C. Friday, August 5, 2022. 

Tate, a two-year starter, has 19 starts in 24 games so he's spent most of his time in a Clemson uniform on the field. After sitting out the spring, though cleared by the medical staff in May, he is prepared to make his comeback and learn offensive coordinator Garrett Riley's spread offense.

Since the start of fall practices, each player made available to the media has commented on the new offense. Tate, who said he could have played in April's spring game if it was a real game, gave his thoughts on the offense on Tuesday. 

"It's more creative. We're getting our playmakers the ball in the space more often,” he noted. “So it really takes a lot of pressure off for the O-line because we have a lot lighter boxes, I ain't gonna lie. I just think the tempo is faster, and. We're able to play more aggressive and more free in this offense. We have more say in what we're doing in pass protection."

The passing game numbers should improve under Riley, but maybe not as drastically as some may think. The Tigers passed for 232.4 yards per game compared to 261.7 for TCU, and pass attempts were 480 to 454, respectively. It's a misnomer to call the offense "pass-happy" based on those numbers and rushing attempts (Clemson's 546 to TCU's 566).

Tate should be fine with running the ball more because he said he loves running the ball, and it allows the line to gain confidence during games. 

Confidence in the running game starts with a relatively experienced offensive line boosted by the presence of juniors Will Shipley and Phil Mafah in the backfield. Shipley led the team in rushing with an impressive 1,182 yards, while Mafah rushed for 515 rushing yards. Shipley also led the team in touchdowns with 15, and both maintained an impressive average of over five yards per carry, with Shipley at 5.6 yards and Mafah at 5.3 yards per carry.

Tate said it's a blessing blocking for the duo, and it's beyond wearing the same uniform.

“It's a blessing for me," he said."Will and Phil are my best friends. They were my roommates for the last two years, and I'll do anything for them. When I'm blocking for them, it's not just doing my job because I want to make sure they're safe. I want to see them succeed. I love them boys to death.”

Clemson Sports Talk
Running back Phil Mafah (7) at practice in Clemson, SC, on August 10, 2023

In breaking down the backs, Shipley is fast and shifty at 5’11, 210 pounds, and Mafah brings the power at 6'1 and 227 pounds--  both are equally difficult to tackle.

There may be some similarities on the field, but they have inverse personalities off it.

"If you talk to Phil, Phil's real mellow. He's going talk to you with a soft voice but he doesn't play like it,” said Tate as he defined their personalities. “And Ship, he got that pit bull mentality. He's coming at you, attacking, loud. I love it. He gets me going, and I try to match his energy every day. So yeah, definitely two different personalities."

Whether Tate can match Shipley's energy is something to watch for during the season. In the past, he largely went unnoticed despite his 6'5, 325-pound frame, which for offensive linemen is not necessarily a terrible thing, considering they're typically only recognized after committing a penalty.

According to Tate, he will be more aggressive on blocks in 2023, and his time away from the game has reignited his love for it. 

"One thing I needed to work on was my aggressiveness," he stated. "I saw it more last year. I just want to build upon it. And that's just my mentality. It's just finishing every rep and putting them in the ground. And just doing that consistently. 

"I really love football and getting injured really gave me the opportunity to find my love for the game and never take it for granted."

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Marcus Tate: Overcoming Injury, Embracing Change, and Reigniting his Love for the Game

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