Most of the players that Clemson signed in December have already arrived on campus to start their college careers.
Of the 19 players the Tigers inked during the early signing period, a dozen of them enrolled early on Jan. 3, giving themselves the opportunity to participate in spring practice and a better chance to make an immediate impact in the fall by getting ahead of the game.
In our Impact Freshmen series detailing Clemson’s midyear enrollees, The Clemson Insider takes an in-depth look at running back Phil Mafah:
Hometown (high school): Loganville, Ga. (Grayson)
Listed height, weight: 6-1, 220
Prospect ratings/rankings: 4-star, No. 8 RB, No. 12 state, No. 148 national (Rivals); 4-star, No. 11 RB, No. 16 state, No. 178 national (247Sports); 4-star, No. 13 RB, No. 28 state, No. 294 national (ESPN)
High school profile: In three years at Grayson High, rushed for 2,526 yards on 288 carries, an 8.8-yard average, and scored 37 total touchdowns … had 10 100-yard rushing games in 29 career games … also recorded 20 career receptions for 224 yards and four scores … rushed for 1,130 yards on 130 attempts (8.7 per rush) in 2020, scoring 18 touchdowns and notching five 100-yard rushing games … had career-high 222 rushing yards on 16 carries against McEachern, a 13.9-yard average, with two scores … followed that with games of 23 rushes for 175 yards, 19 for 142 yards and 20 for 146 yards … had 676 yards and a 10-yard average in 2019, missing four games with a broken collarbone … recorded 720 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2018
Strengths: Hailing from the same high school as former Clemson and current New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman, Mafah is a different type of back than Gallman, though the two share similarities in terms of their toughness and winning pedigree coming from a powerhouse program in Grayson.
Mafah possesses an outstanding combination of size and speed. He is a downhill runner who is known for running between the tackles at 220-plus pounds, but also has enough speed to race past defenders and take the ball to the house. Mafah’s athleticism shows up on film, and he has the ability to make defenders miss in space. He has sneaky speed, accelerates quickly and seldom gets caught from behind when he gets a head of steam. A power-style back, Mafah can drop his pad level and carry defenders with him.
Mafah has great vision to boot and has the skills to catch the ball out of the backfield as well. He is a complete back who does it all.
How he fits in: Mafah and fellow Clemson running back signee Will Shipley enter a running back group looking to replace bell cow Travis Etienne as the No. 1 back, with Etienne headed to the NFL. So, there appears to be an opportunity for Mafah and Shipley to try to stake their claim for early playing time next fall as they compete for snaps with Lyn-J Dixon, Darien Rencher, Chez Mellusi, Michel Dukes and Kobe Pace.
Although he missed several games as a senior in 2020 due to a foot injury, Mafah still rushed for 1,130 yards on 130 attempts (8.7 per rush) and scored 18 touchdowns while logging five 100-yard rushing games. As a junior in 2019, he ran for 676 yards with a 10-yard average despite missing four games with a broken collarbone.
Nobody on Clemson’s staff is stingier than Tony Elliott when it comes to extending scholarship offers, so the fact that Mafah was offered early and was the first commit in the Tigers’ 2021 class says a lot about how highly they think of him.
Coach speak: Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney on Mafah: “Phil is a grown man – big, strong, in-between-the-tackles type of guy but still has the speed to pull away from you. Really has had an unbelievable year this year. Got hurt … Hurt his ankle, foot area. But we think we got us a great one in big Phil.”
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott on Mafah: “I think you start with his character. When you meet Phil, he’s very quiet, but he’s a no-nonsense kind of guy. He knew exactly what he wanted. … He came to camp, showed everything that he needed to show in camp. But he’s a guy that knew exactly what he wanted. Very intelligent, very smart. From a very humble family. He just had all the qualities. It didn’t take long recognizing or identifying that this is the kind of young man we want in our program.”