Clemson has not been in this position in a long time.
Over the last seven seasons the Tigers have relied on a premier running back to anchor their offense.
But after Travis Etienne graduated and was selected by the Jaguars with the 25th overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft Clemson needs to fill a massive hole.
The Tigers aim to compete for another national championship this season without the bulk of its offensive production from one year ago in the absence of Trevor Lawrence, Etienne, Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell.
Since 2014 two players have led Clemson in rushing, Etienne and Wayne Gallman. The last time a different Tiger led that category Rod McDowell toted the rock and freshmen Phil Mafah and Will Shipley were in elementary school.
Now a slew of talented young running backs have an opportunity to seize the spot vacated by Etienne, the ACC’s all-time leading rusher.
Kobe Pace emerged as perhaps the top candidate at running back after spring practice. The sophomore recorded 18 carries for 75 yards and five receptions for 26 yards and a receiving touchdown in nine games last season. In the spring game Pace ran for 69 yards on six carries and showed promise.
Shipley enters with plenty of acclaim as a five-star and the No. 2 running back in the country out of the 2021 class after a stellar high school career at Weddington High School in Matthews, N.C.
Mafah showed his potential in the spring game with six carries for 38 yards and a four yard touchdown in the Orange and White game. The freshman brings raw power to the running back room.
Etienne’s shoes will be difficult to fill but there is plenty of young talent ready to make an impact at running back for Clemson.
Should be some fresh opportunity for a deep Clemson RB corps in 2021. The last time someone other than Travis Etienne or Wayne Gallman led Clemson in rushing in a season was 2013 (Rod McDowell).
Lyn-J Dixon was an eighth grader. Will Shipley and Phil Mafah were fifth graders.
— Ross Taylor (@ClemsonFBRoss) July 7, 2021
—Clemson Athletic Communications contributed to this story