With Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett now playing in the NFL the power structure shifts to Deon Cain as Clemson’s big-play threat in the passing game this coming season.
Cain is an obvious choice for the reigning national champions. Last year, the junior tallied 724 yards—third most on the team—despite catching just 38 footballs. His 19.1 yards per catch average led the team by three more yards per catch.
The Tampa, Fla., native just did not show his worth last season. He also averaged 17.1 yards on 34 catches as a freshman in 2015. In his two seasons as a backup, Cain has 14 touchdowns, most of which are over 40 yards.
But Cain does not have to catch the long ball to make plays. He had a 38-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown against Florida State in 2015, while he also had a 67-yarder against Boston College as well.
Cain’s most memorable big-play moment came in last season’s national championship game against Alabama. He took a screen pass from Deshaun Watson on the far sideline and then proceeded to make people miss as he weaved in and out of traffic for a 43-yard gain.
The big play got the Tigers’ offense in gear as Alabama never really stopped Clemson after that. The Tigers went on to score a touchdown a few plays later on a Watson run. Cain finished the game with five catches for 94 yards.
Despite all the big plays Cain has made, the funny thing is he has not even scratched the surface of his full potential. Not only is he big (6-1, 215) and physical like Williams and former Clemson wideout Deandre Hopkins, but he is also fast as well. He gives Clemson the best of both worlds while playing the same position those two played while making Clemson known as Wide Receiver U.
However, Cain still has some improving to do. He needs to get more consistent in terms of catching the football as he dropped a lot of passes last year. Co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott indicated in the spring Cain needs to really turn up his conditioning since he will now have to prove he can make those same types of big plays late in the game when everything is on the line.
“When you get tired late in practice and we are doing third down drills, and it is basically like a fourth-quarter situation, can you push through and make those plays in the clutch,” Scott said. “Some of those guys last year, like a Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett on that last drive, we are a hundred plays in and those guys are able to execute at a high level when their team needs them. That is the biggest thing for guys like Ray-Ray and Deon that are trying to take that next step as they go from being a part-time player to a full-time player and being in a starting role.
“That is the biggest thing and I have seen improvement from in both of them. A lot of that is being consistent in the way they practice from the beginning, all the way to the end.”
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