Dabo Swinney played wide receiver and he coached the position as well. If there is anyone who understands what a wide receiver is supposed to, even when he is not touching the ball, it is Clemson’s head coach.
That’s why Swinney and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, who also serves as the Tigers’ wide receivers coach, awarded freshman Justyn Ross the team’s downfield blocker of the week award. Ross’ block on a downfield defender in last week’s win over Furman sprung Kelly Bryant on a 35-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“Big plays in the run game come from second level blocking,” Swinney said. “That is where it comes from. You can get some nice plays and do a good job on the first level, but it is the second level blocking. That long run he had, and the reason he went untouched, is because Ross had two men on the ground. One guy just kind of got in his way and the other he knocked down.”
Swinney said Ross’ tenacity to block reminds him of a couple of former Tigers that are now playing in the NFL.
“It is uncommon (for a young wide receiver),” he said. “Very few receivers come in here with the mindset of Deandre Hopkins, who actually like it. Ross, I thought, was awesome last week. The touchdown? That was great.”
Swinney was impressed and encouraged by Ross’ physicality. Though other receivers did a good job, Swinney described Ross’ performance in the run game as exceptional.
“Usually most guys coming out of high school, who played in a spread offense, they want to touch the ball and they feel like that is their measure of success,” the Clemson coach said. “Your value to the team is how you impact the game without the ball. That is your value as a wideout in my book.
“Mike Williams did not have to touch the ball, he impacted the game with his presence. Just his presence, he changed the game. That is a great player. That is a complete player. He was physical in the blocking game with just his presence. That is what you want. You want to be a factor on every down not just when you catch the ball.”
Swinney wants his receivers to impact the game on every play, not just when they are getting the ball thrown to them.
“It may not be your blocking, but it can be running your route. You are running like you are the only guy on the field,” he said. “That is a mindset that with a lot of these young guys you have to instill that into these guys, but Justin has been ahead in that.”