Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is excited about the Tigers’ true freshmen running backs, Will Shipley and Phil Mafah.
“He and Shipley are roommates, and they’re both very unique freshmen and they compliment each other well,” Swinney said in an interview with Kelsey Riggs and Eric Mac Lain during the ACC Network’s ACC Football Road Trip show at Clemson.
Swinney was asked what makes Shipley – a former five-star prospect ranked as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2021 class – different from a typical freshman.
“He’s just physically and mentally ready,” Swinney said. “To me, that makes him different right there, because most freshmen are not. … Most freshmen, it’s just so much. But he’s been here since January, so he’s had more time. And then physically, where he came in here is just incredible. He’s so strong, he’s fast, he’s incredibly athletic, he’s a very, very football savvy guy from a football IQ standpoint. So, he’s just unique in that regard, but he’s still a freshman.”
Like Shipley (listed at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds), Mafah arrived to Clemson in January as an early enrollee.
A unanimous top-300 player nationally according to the major recruiting services coming out of Grayson High (Loganville, Ga.), Mafah rushed for 2,526 yards and scored 37 total touchdowns in three years at Grayson, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. The 6-foot-1, 228-pounder logged 10 games of 100-plus rushing yards in 29 career games.
Shipley, meanwhile, rushed for 4,173 yards on 503 carries (8.3 yards per rush) and racked up 1,411 receiving yards on 84 catches (16.8-yard average) during his career at Weddington High (Matthews, N.C.)
“Mafah’s a 228-pound back. I don’t think we’ve ever had a kid like him. He’s unique,” Swinney said.
“Mafah doesn’t get the credit for his speed and athleticism, and Shipley doesn’t get the credit for his power. People think Shipley’s just some speed guy. Shipley, he can run anywhere you want him to run – in between the tackles, outside. And Mafah’s got some wheels, and he’s very athletic. He’s got great hips, great vision. So, they’re two young guys, and they’ve got to get some experience.”
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