Clemson Football: Looking ahead at the 2024 running back room after Will Shipley's departure

With Will Shipley's entry into the NFL Draft, Phil Mafah becomes the feature back for Clemson in 2024, but the Tigers rarely use one rusher exclusively. Here are the options to find playing time behind Mafah next season.
Clemson running back Jay Hayes (26) runs against Kentucky during the fourth quarter of the TaxSlayer Bowl
Clemson running back Jay Hayes (26) runs against Kentucky during the fourth quarter of the TaxSlayer Bowl / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Keith Adams, Jr.

The depth chart released before the Gator Bowl listed Shipley and Mafah as co-starters. There was only one other name listed: Keith Adams, Jr.

Adams will be a redshirt sophomore in 2024. He was a member of the Class of 2022. He was rated as a 3-star prospect by 247Sports.

As usual, fans tend to dismiss 3-star prospects because they are assumed to be less talented than other options, but there are other prejudices against Adams by fans.

Adams's father, Keith Sr., was a star linebacker for the Tigers. While some fans embrace legacy recruits as part of the family, others assume that their familial connections are the only reason that they were offered a scholarship.

In other words, some fans dismiss Adams because they think he would have never been offered a scholarship if his name wasn’t Adams.

The timing of Adam’s offer and commitment fuels some of that belief. He was only brought into the fold publicly following other higher-priority targets deciding to join other programs.

Adams should not be dismissed too quickly, for a couple of reasons. First, as we said a minute ago, as of right now he is the only guy on the depth chart behind Mafah. Dabo Swinney and his staff make guys earn their spot. Adams has the spot and it is easier to keep a spot than it is to ascend past someone on the depth chart.

Second, everyone should have learned their lesson by now about 3-star prospects. Sometimes they are better than outwardly known.

Adams hasn’t had many carries during his time with the Tigers (14 total) but he averages 9.0 yards a carry.

Other guys could challenge Adams for the main backup role behind Mafah, but he is living on that property right now, and history tells us Swinney and CJ Spiller will start him there this spring.

Will he be there by the end of spring? Jay Haynes might have something to say about that.