Jeff Scott, Clemson’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator, remembers reading and hearing all the comments from Alabama’s defensive players about Hunter Renfrow prior to last year’s national championship game.
In the 2016 Championship Classic, Alabama’s secondary had no answer for Clemson’s “Little Man.” At the time, Renfrow caught a career-high seven passes for 88 yards, while scoring two touchdowns. The former walk-on frustrated the ’Bama defense as he kept getting open and more open throughout the night.
So going into the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game, the Crimson Tide told the media they were not going to let it happen again.
“There were a lot of comments by their players saying last year they really did not know who he was and ‘he is not going to sneak up on us this time,’” Scott recalled. “That is one of the messages I kind gave to Hunter, our wideouts and maybe even to the offense. What is going to happen when it happens again?”
And it did.
Renfrow caught a game-high 10 passes for 92 yards and scored two more touchdowns, including the game winner with one second to play in the Tigers’, 35-31, national championship clinching win.
Scott knew if Renfrow did what he did it was going to get under the skin of Alabama’s players. He knew they would start arguing and pointing fingers.
“Sure enough, it kind of happened that way,” Scott said.
Because the Tigers had Mike Williams on one side of the field and Artavis Scott on the other, and with Jordan Leggett in the middle, defenses had to pick their poison. In most cases, Renfrow was the poison of choice and defenses slowly died because of him.
“It is difficult when you have a lot of talented players,” Scott said.
“Yes, we know Hunter is very talented, but you only have two eyes and there are a lot of weapons out there. That is been part of the reason for our success, having multiple weapons where guys cannot get focused on one or two guys.”
It’ not likely Renfrow, who has 77 career receptions for 987 yards, will be the poison of choice this year. Being the most experienced player at wideout, he is likely to draw the most attention at first. And that is good news for Clemson because it should help other players like Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud and others find a way to get open.
And even if Renfrow does draw more attention, Scott says the 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver knows he is still good enough to get open.
“If you look at great players, no matter what the position, they continue to have success, even though people know (about them),” Scott said. “Vic Beasley is a tough guy to block off the edge, but he still has that success because he is a talented player. It comes down to fundamentals and technique to go along with the skillset that you have.
“That is who Hunter is. These guys are obviously working hard to stop him, but he is working hard to continue to find ways to get open. That’s what great players do.”
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