CLEMSON—For the fanbase wondering how the 2017 Clemson Tiger could ever overcome the losses of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott—two of the most decorate receivers to play at Clemson—there may not be as much need for concern as one might think.
Because for the first time in his eight years at Clemson, wide receivers coach Jeff Scott believes that he has nine scholarship guys that can all step on the field and get and the job done.
“You don’t just replace a fourth-year player with a freshman right away, but this is the first time that I’ve had nine scholarship guys that I feel can go out there and play winning football,” wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. ““After the first practice, the coaches get together in the locker room and are like, ‘Alright, how are your freshmen? What do you think?’
“This is the first time that I can remember that every coach is like, ‘Yes, we hit on him. This guy is exactly what we thought or even a little bit more.’ Obviously, it’s early. We’re in jerseys and shorts the first couple of days, but just from an athleticism standpoint and then also from a maturity standpoint.”
The one name that has begun to cause a stir within the coaching staff is wide receiver Amari Rodgers, who’s maturity and ball skills have made him into an instant threat to the depth chart.
“I know from my position Amari Rodgers is probably one of the most mature freshmen that I’ve had in my eight years at Clemson,” Scott said. “Just super focused, and that’s not something that you can—you learn a little bit about them in the recruiting process and all that, but you can’t find that out until they get here.
“Sometimes as freshmen it takes them a little while to figure out how serious, how important everything is. You know the install—it’s not good enough just to come and have the install meeting with the coach. He’s coming in an hour early and getting on the computer and taking your own notes before we actually have the meeting—that’s stuff that the typical junior or senior would do. Asking the right questions.”
As shocking as that statement may be considering the names that have played at “Wide Receiver U,” it is the emergence of the freshmen that have a veteran looking at a possible position change.
Junior wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud has been unable to catch passes during the first three days of camp due to a screw being put in his hand, but with his ability to run and defend the Tigers have been having McCloud practice with the defensive backs—something that was discussed earlier in the summer with the veteran.
“We’re trying to us him in different ways,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We had him back peddling, and then we had him running routes. He can’t catch the ball right now, but he can get over there and cover. It’s been kind of fun watching him, because he’s one of those rare guys that can play either side of the ball.
“We don’t really do anything to waste time. That is something that we actually talked about his summer and he was kind of open to it because we know what he can do (at wide receiver) but he might be a guy that can go and work nickel or we can take a guy and put him at nickel and he can be just a corner guy or an emergency guy.”
The two freshmen receivers, Rodgers and Tee Higgins, entered Clemson only five weeks ago, but in that short amount of time have shown that they have what it takes to compete at the level of the former Tiger greats.
“I’ve been very pleased with all our freshmen. We’re going really fast from an install standpoint,” Scott said. “We really wanted to be really aggressive with our install and get as much in as we could and really challenge, not just our freshmen, but that next group of guys that need to step up this year. Those freshmen have responded well.
“As a coach, I just can gauge it off, I can remember when Nuk Hopkins came in as a freshman. I can remember when Sammy (Watkins) and Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake and those guys came in as freshman, and the questions I would ask and the responses I would get back. Amari and Tee have done an excellent job.”