Clemson’s young receivers have the Tigers producing one explosive play after another
It’s a good thing Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross don’t have to be covered by Amari Rodgers. Though he is seven inches shorter than both of Clemson’s 6-foot-5 receivers, Rodgers believes he can shut them both down if he still played defensive back.
“In high school, I was hoping to play Tee because we were right down the road from each other,” Rodgers said smiling. “I told Tee all the time when we play I was going to lock him up. But, I feel like right now I can handle both of them. I feel like I’ve got skills to handle both of them.”
Well, no one will ever know. Instead, Clemson’s sophomore receiver will have to watch Higgins and Ross continue to dominate defensive secondaries like they have through the first four games of the 2018 season.
Higgins, who came to Clemson with Rodgers in 2017, is averaging 22.1 yards per reception and has scored two touchdowns, while Ross, a freshman, has scored three touchdowns and is averaging 28.7 yards per catch.
Ross had a 53-yard touchdown reception in last week’s win at Georgia Tech, while Higgins scored on a 30-yard touchdown reception.
Now defenses must worry about both receivers at the same time, as Clemson has added a package that has both talented receivers on the field at the same time. As a former defensive back in high school, Rodgers appreciates the fact he is on the same side of the field with Higgins and Ross.
“That’s crazy, because in practice, when they made that package, we were like, ‘Oh my God! That is going to kill defenses.’ Justyn and Tee are both incredible players, both 6-5 and fast. I don’t see how the can stop them, that is just incredible,” Rodgers said. “I love them dudes, they work their tails off, too. So, they’re not just big, they are ballers too and they work for it. So, it pays off. That’s why it is going to be tough for defenses.”
It has been tough for defenses already. The Tigers, who host Syracuse on Saturday at Death Valley, rank second in the ACC in passing yards at 274.5 yards per game.
Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC) has already thrown 11 touchdown passes this year after having just 17 all of last year.
“I feel like as an offense, we just go out there and do what we do,” Rodgers said. “We practice well. We practice against a great defense. So, when we go out there, we feel like we are prepared for it and we are ready.
“We just go out there and do what we do, and we go and make plays.”
Few teams in the country are making as many plays as Clemson’s wide receivers. The Tigers rank third nationally in explosive plays of 40 yards or more with 10. Six of those plays are over 50 yards.
Clemson’s top 5 receivers have at least one play of 40 yards or more.
“It is not like it is ‘I’m better than you’ type of thing. We have just competitive friendships, that’s just how we are. We push each other,” Rodgers said. “When one of us makes a play, it’s like ‘alight, it’s your turn now. Go out and make a play.’
“I feel like we are good at pushing each other, and I feel like we get the best out of each other that way.”
The results are showing on the field. All nine of Clemson’s receivers have caught at least three passes pass so far this year and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott believes there is more to come. The depth and skill of this year’s receiving corps at Clemson is nothing like it has ever had before.
That is saying something considering Clemson at one point had NFL standouts Deandre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Adam Humphries and Jaron Brown all on the field at the same time.
“Coach Scott tells us every week that we have one of the best groups that he has ever seen,” Rodgers said. “We push each other. We are mature. We are young, too. We only have two seniors. That is incredible. As long as we keep our head up and keep grinding, there is more to come.”