3 questions about the Clemson Football running backs this spring

Phil Mafah is the feature back for the Tigers this fall, but this spring we could learn a little more about who is most likely to be his primary back-up.

Clemson running back Phil Mafah (7)
Clemson running back Phil Mafah (7) / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK
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How will they use Hammerhead?

Keith Adams, Jr. is the most likely to be second-string at the beginning of spring camp, mostly due to seniority and tenure, but also due to the point I made about Haynes: the Tigers want running backs in the game that they can rely on for pass blocking. Adams has earned the nickname ‘Hammerhead’ because of his toughness when running the ball.

Clemson also began using him as a fullback late in the 2023 season, specifically in the Gator Bowl against Kentucky. This tells you they don’t doubt his blocking. Younger fans might not be accustomed to the position in modern offenses but old heads can't help but love someone named Hammerhead lining up at fullback.

With the departure of Shipley, I think many fans aren’t expecting the two-back formation to pop up in the offense’s repertoire as often in 2024. As Lee Corso says, ‘Not so fast, my friends.’

Adams could provide some interesting wrinkles for the Tigers on 3rd down this season lining up with Mafah in the backfield. Not only could he carry the rock to try to pick up the first down, but he could provide blocking while Klubnik looks for Mafah, Jake Briningstool, and the receivers out of play motion. Oh, and they could still hand the ball off to Mafah.

Garrett Riley likes to have options. Adams could be his secret weapon on third down in 2024.

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