CLEMSON—If junior wide receiver Deon Cain meets his own expectations this season, the Tigers offense may be more explosive than it was last season even with a new quarterback behind center.
However, his goals are not small ones entering the 2017 season, where he is expected to take over the starting 9-man receiving spot that was held last season by the seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft—Mike Williams.
“Every game I’m expected to get two touchdowns and 100 yards. So, if that ain’t happening then I feel like I failed. Every game doesn’t go how it is, but even then gonna attack every game as hard as I can,” Cain said following the Tigers’ practice Saturday.
Those goals may be lofty for some, but for Cain—who has amassed 14 touchdowns on only 72 career receptions and 1,306 yards, an average of 18.1 yards per catch over his career—he understands that these are the types of goals that the Tigers look for out of a leader.
Because that is exactly what he is this season—a leader.
With the departures of veteran wide receivers Williams and Artavis Scott to the NFL, the former quarterback turned dynamic receiver now realizes that it is his turn to be the guy on a team of talented young receivers.
“I’ve always seen myself as a leader—I’ve been a quarterback my whole life, so it’s nothing to me,” Cain said. “I’m just trying to push my teammates and myself. I always want to see myself get better and my teammates get better.
“It’s new, because I always was the one looking behind Mike (Williams) or Charone (Peake) or all those other guys, but now it just feels weird that I’m that guy now. I’ve been there before, so I just try to lean on my teammates and lead by example.”
Part of the leadership of veteran is doing whatever it takes to make sure that he is prepared to be on the field when his team needs him, and for that part Cain worked hard this summer to change his body—losing 18 pounds, from 210 pounds to 197 pounds this season.
“I know I’ve got a bigger role this year, so I know I’ve got to do a little more than what I had to last year. I just want to have my body in the perfect place for that, so I don’t get called out on plays,” Cain said. “During the season, I gained a lot last year. So, this year I’m just trying to slow it down so I don’t be a little heavier. Because in the season you’ve got all options for any type of food. So, really I’m just trying to maintain that and keep my body around 200.”
However, it is not only his body that he has changed in hopes of carrying the torch as the leader of the wide receiver corps—it is his craft as well.
Cain spent the summer working to debunk the myth that he is just a deep threat– wanting to prove to the coaching staff that he can be a guy that do it all when it comes to catching the ball.
“Mostly just being physical at the point of attack and attacking the ball out of the air,” Cain said. “A lot of people see me as just a deep ball, and, I mean, that was just my role last year and I couldn’t help it. But just being a more complete receiver—getting right on my timing and running my routes better.”