With the news late on Monday night that wide receiver Hunter Renfrow will miss at least four weeks with a broken right hand, No. 3 Clemson losses perhaps its best possession receiver on the team.
Renfrow was one of the Tigers’ top players in the school’s run to the National Championship game last year. He had 33 receptions for 492 yards and five touchdowns in 2015.
The former walk-on had seven receptions for 88 yards and two scores against Alabama in the championship game. He has caught at least one touchdown pass in each of the last four games. Prior to the injury, Renfrow had four receptions for 62 yards and two scores in two games so far this year.
The sophomore was injured on his 35-yard diving catch for a touchdown in last Saturday’s win over Troy.
So what’s next for the Tigers?
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney always talks about having the next man up mentality, and there is no better area on the team for that to happen than at wide receiver. The Tigers are loaded with talent at all three positions and several guys like Ray Ray McCloud, Trevion Thompson and Deon Cain can play the slot, which was left open by Renfrow’s injury.
McCloud is expected to move into the starting lineup with Renfrow’s injury. McCloud is coming off a game in which he had seven receptions for a career high 86 yards in last Saturday’s win over Troy.
In the win over the Trojans, Swinney played several of his young players, including freshmen wideouts Cornell Powell and Diondre Overton. Clemson was close to redshirting Overton, but he changed the coaches’ minds over the last couple of weeks with his consistent play in practice.
With the loss of Renfrow for the next month, it turned out to be a good decision to get the freshman some playing time against Troy.
“It gives us eight quality guys,” Swinney said on Sunday when asked about playing the two freshmen. “If we get one rolled ankle or something like that you can get thin pretty quick. “(Overton) is a very talented guy. He hit a little lull there in camp and that is why he was kind of on the fence, but the last couple of weeks, watching him practice and how he has responded, especially as we kind of paired the game plans down, we just made the decision we were going to play him.
“Obviously, we have some good players in front of him, but he will get some experience this year that will pay off for him in the future and for us.”
It could start to pay off this week. With Renfrow down, look for both freshmen to possibly see the field even more.
Though Clemson will miss Renfrow, they should be okay without him, too. If last week is any indication, the light bulb has come on for McCloud, who showed how explosive he can be in the open space. The Tigers already have two of the best receivers in the ACC in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, and though Cain has had a couple of drops this year, the sophomore has already showed his explosion and what kind of playmaker he is in the Clemson offense.
The Tigers will host S.C. State this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The game can be seen on Fox’s Regional Sports Network.
—Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports