Clemson freshman receiver Cornell Powell played his first snaps in a Clemson uniform on Saturday in the Tigers’ 30-24 win over Troy. Heading into this week’s game against S.C. State, and moving forward, Powell is set for an expanded role in Clemson’s offense.
After the injury to Hunter Renfrow — a broken hand suffered against Troy that will sideline him for “a few weeks” — Powell is in line for more opportunities, according to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
“Cornell is going to be a great player. That’s why we recruited him,” Swinney said on Tuesday. “(Renfrow’s injury) is an opportunity for him to get in the mix a little bit more.”
Powell hated to hear the news about Renfrow, but he understands it presents a chance for him to showcase the skills that made him a highly sought-after recruit coming out of high school.
“When I first heard the news, I was obviously sad because he’s a great player and he just makes plays, so I knew that it was going to impact the team,” Powell said of Renfrow on Tuesday. “But after that I realized that this could be my moment to show what I can do and go out there and help the team as best as I can.”
During his four seasons at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C., Powell amassed more than 200 catches, 4,000-plus yards and nearly 70 touchdowns.
Like many young players who play such a significant role in high school, Powell admitted it has been an adjustment having to work and wait for his time to make an early impact in college.
“Coming into a program and having to wait for it is a humbling experience,” Powell said. “I know that it was best for the team.”
In other ways, adjusting to the college game hasn’t been quite as hard for Powell. The 6-foot, 200-pounder said that learning Clemson’s playbook and how to play at the collegiate level wasn’t too difficult of a process for him.
“I’ve been playing football since I was 5, so I know how to grasp the concept of a play,” Powell said. “I got it all right by the beginning of fall camp, and once I learned it consistently, it allowed me to play at 100 percent in every route and every play.”
That knowledge of the game should make it easier for Powell’s talent to shine through, and he believes there is a lot he can bring to the table as a receiver at Clemson.
“I can bring speed, physicality, a deep ball threat and red zone threat,” Powell said. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m ready to embrace my role.”
Powell was already set for increases in playing time as the season progressed, regardless of Renfrow’s injury. However, the injury has opened the door for Powell to see more action sooner than expected.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Swinney said. “He’s a guy that, regardless of whether anybody got hurt or not, you were going to see him more and more as we go through the course of the season and that kid gets settled in.”