Granted, Jeff Scott’s wide receivers room is losing two guys in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott that caught 174 passes for 1,975 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, but it’s not like he has not been here before.
Through the years, Clemson’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator has had to replace several NFL caliber players such as DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Adam Humphries, Jaron Brown, Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant.
“It is always difficult when you are losing top talented guys that have been around, but that is just part of the process,” Jeff Scott said. “One thing I’m the most proud of with this program is six consecutive years with 10-plus wins. There has been a lot of transition at a lot of major positions throughout the last six years and I think that is good for our players to know.”
Williams and Artavis Scott are both getting ready to participate in the NFL Scouting combine this weekend, while Jeff Scott is getting guys like Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud ready to replace them as the Tigers began spring practice on Wednesday.
“I have said it many times. I remember when Sammy, Nuk Hopkins and all of those guys were leaving, Martavis Bryant, I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ How are we going to replace these guys,” Scott said. “Then the next guys come in and then they leave, and you don’t know how you are going to replace those guys. Then the next guys come in and then they leave, and you don’t know how you are going to replace them. It is just part of the process.”
Scott says the Tigers benefit from the fact McCloud and Cain have played so much the last two years. Cain became a starter during his freshman season when Williams was out with his neck injury, while McCloud has started a few games here and there and has played a lot while subbing in for Artavis Scott and Hunter Renfrow.
“I think we are fortunate to have some guys in Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud that really have played a lot of ball, Deon especially,” Jeff Scott said. “He is really kind of a starter in his own side. Once you look at the stats with him and Mike Williams last year, it was pretty even.”
Cain finished last season with 38 catches for 714 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He led the Tigers with a 19.1 yards per catch average. His 43-yard catch-and-run against Alabama in the national championship game turned things around for the Clemson offense and got it rolling. Now he has to keep doing things like that as the starter.
McCloud, who was third on the team with 49 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, has to do the same thing.
“It is different to go out there and not be the backup guy and be the guy,” Scott said. “I think both of those guys are ready for the transition.”
The transition Scott is the most looking forward to this spring is that of guys like Cornell Powell and Diondre Overton. Now sophomores, he is anxious to see how they have progressed now that they had a whole season in the system. Are they ready to take the next step?
“The guys that were freshmen, and were the third-team guys, now they have to step up and be ready to contribute 30 to 35 plays a game,” Scott said.
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