Clemson freshman wide receiver Justyn Ross has made the most of the opportunities he has gotten in the first four games of his collegiate career.
The former five-star recruit has recorded six receptions, three of which have gone for touchdowns.
“Is that what it is? We need to throw it to him a little more, don’t we?” Swinney joked when asked about the impressive statistic following second-ranked Clemson’s 49-21 win at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Ross’s stellar start to the 2018 season and his career has Clemson’s coaches drooling about his future potential.
Though he didn’t join the team until August camp, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound freshman leads all Clemson receivers with the three touchdown catches and ranks third in the receiving corps with 172 receiving yards.
“He’s just going to continue to blossom, no question about it,” Swinney said. “He likes to practice. He’s just an explosive football player. When we’ve been at our best around here is when we’ve had some dudes at that 9-man (position). When you look back, over the years, we’ve had DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant, and Mike Williams rolls in… It just puts a lot of pressure on people and it’s hard to play single coverage, and that opens up things for (Hunter) Renfrow and Amari (Rodgers) and all the other parts of your offense.
“But he’s definitely a threat. He’s a young player that is on his way.”
Ross hauled in only one pass in Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, but it was a big one.
Trevor Lawrence hit Ross in stride down the sideline for a pretty 53-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.
“It’s great to see a freshman playmaker get out there,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott said of Ross. “I think this is the third game where his first touch of the game has gone for a touchdown, so I think we need to keep finding ways to give him the ball early. Some players, they find the ball and the ball just happens to find him, and that’s kind of who Justyn’s been for us.”
Prior to Saturday, Ross had a game-high 103 receiving yards in Clemson’s win over Georgia Southern a week earlier, including a 57-yard catch-and-run for a score during which he juked two defenders before racing to the end zone.
Two weeks before that in the Tigers’ season-opening victory vs. Furman, the native of Phenix City, Ala., caught a screen pass from Lawrence for his first career reception, then cut inside and made a defender miss en route to his first career touchdown.
“The biggest thing is just his ability, first of all, to track and catch the ball,” Swinney said. “He’s got incredible ball skills. He’s very fast, and then you saw last week (against Georgia Southern) his ability to run after the catch and change direction. He can plant and cut on a dime, and that makes him special. But he’s big and strong and he’s really picked up the offense well. So, he’s taking advantage of his opportunities, and you’ll continue to see a lot of No. 8.”
Ross, the first ever top-ranked prospect from the state of Alabama to sign with Clemson, has flashed glimpses of his dynamic talent and high ceiling through four games.
Clemson’s coaches are excited to see what he does the rest of this season and in the years to come.
“Man, he’s really added another threat to a very deep group of skill guys,” Scott said. “He’s going to continue to get better as the year goes.”