Of all the wide receiver positions, the slot position is Clemson’s deepest. Despite losing starter Amari Rodgers to a torn ACL in the back half of spring practice, the Tigers are still in a very good spot when it comes to quality depth at the position.
Don’t get me wrong, not having Rodgers for the first two-plus months of the season hurts a little. The junior started all 15 games last year at field receiver. He finished second on the squad with 55 receptions for 575 yards (third on the team) and 4 receiving touchdowns (third on the team). He averaged 10.5 yards per catch.
So, Clemson is going to miss Rodgers’ experience. However, the Tigers have five capable players that can fill in and there is not much of drop off, if any at all.
How well to the coaches feel about guys they have in place? Good enough they left Derion Kendrick at cornerback after he moved over to cross train prior to Rodgers’ injury.
Here is a look at the potential depth chart at the slot wide receiver position heading into fall camp.
Cornell Powell, Jr., 6-0, 210: After Rodgers was injured, Powell stepped up and really took advantage of his opportunity in the spring. The coaching staff, including co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, were really impressed with Powell during spring drills, even before Rodgers’ injury. Some wondered if Powell might transfer or move to safety after last season, instead he enters the spring at the top of the depth chart. Powell played in just four games before an academic issue forced him to miss a good part of the year. He decided to redshirt the year, so he did not lose a year of eligibility. Powell has 25 receptions for 207 yards in his career.
T.J. Chase, Jr., 6-0, 190: Like Powell, Chase took advantage of his extra reps and has put himself in position to compete for the starting job in the slot. Chase has made steady improvement on the team during his career. The junior continues to find ways to get on the field and earned his coaches’ trust. Last year, he played in all 15 games while hauling in 13 receptions for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Diondre Overton, Sr., 6-4, 210: Overton was already cross training all three wide receiver positions before Rodgers was injured, but when Rodgers went down, they really started to speed up Overton’s schooling in the slot. Scott did his best to get Overton up to speed so he can potentially push for the starting job in the fall. The senior spent a lot of the last two weeks of the spring concentrating on slot. Overton has all the skills and talent to be a starter anywhere in the country. He is tall, physical, strong and fast. His ball skills are the same as Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Last year, as a backup, Overton caught 14 passes for 199 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. He averaged 14.2 yards per catch.
Derion Kendrick, So., 6-0, 195: Just before the end of the first half of spring practice, the coaches moved Kendrick to cornerback to help with depth issues due to so many players getting banged up with nagging injuries. Kendrick, who played safety in high school, was a natural. Though raw and needing work with his technique, he shined at corner and even started in the spring game. At the end of the spring, defensive coordinator Brent Venables said Kendrick would be his starter at one of the corner positions if the season started that day. Head coach Dabo Swinney still wants to use Kendrick at wide receiver as well, and the likely landing spot for the sophomore is in the slot where he started the spring as Rodgers’ backup. Last year, Kendrick played in all 15 games as a true freshman, catching 15 passes for 210 yards, while averaging 14 yards per catch. He can also play the field position, where he backed up Rodgers last year.
Brannon Spector, Fr., 6-1, 190: Spector is the new No. 13 on the roster and in his first spring, he did really well and may have earned himself and opportunity to play this coming season. A second-generation Clemson player who played wide receiver and safety in high school, Spector had 49 receptions for 719 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 as a senior. He also had 47 tackles, five tackles for loss, and five interceptions on defense while returning one interception for a touchdown. He is the younger brother of Clemson linebacker Baylon Spector and the son of former Tiger Robbie Spector, who was a wide receiver for Clemson from 1988-’90.