As Clemson opened training camp Friday afternoon behind the Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson, wide receiver Amari Rodgers was on the field.
The junior, who tore his ACL in March, did not participate in any of the drills, but he was dressed for camp and was jogging around the practice fields as he continues his rehab on his injured knee. And though the Tigers are hoping to get Rodgers back at some point in the season, right now they have to prepare others to start for them in the slot.
From what was observed in Day 1 of camp, plus what co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott said afterwards, it appears senior Diondre Overton has an early lead on redshirt juniors Cornell Powell and T.J. Chase.
“I’m really pleased with Diondre Overton,” Scott said after practice. “I guess he kind of did a little bit this spring but coming out today to start fall camp at five-man and did a really good job. He was probably one of the more consistent guys out of Day One.”
Overton started practice with the first-team offense at the slot position. After Rodgers injured his knee during spring practice, Overton moved over to the slot and spent the last two weeks of spring practice learning the position.
Powell came out of the spring with the edge, but over the summer Overton grabbed hold of the position and is now getting the first opportunity to win the job.
“His body is in great shape and I am really just proud of how hard he has worked during his time here,” Scott said. “I think he can do a really good job while Amari is working his way back.”
In his three years so far at Clemson, Overton has caught 30 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns. He has played in 36 games, including 14 during last year’s national championship season. He has never started a game.
He has caught 14 passes in each of the last two seasons. Last year, he had a career high 199 receiving yards to go along with a career best three touchdowns.
Scott explains Overton has not been a starter because of the guys playing in front of him.
“You got to remember that, too,” Scott said with a smile. “I think for him it has been just buying into the weight room and getting stronger. Just kind of that maturity to understand that what he does in the weight room will have an impact on him being able to get on the field.
“His body is in the best shape. He is stronger than he has been since he has been here.”
Overton reported to camp at 213 pounds, eight pounds heavier than he was when spring practice ended on April 6.
“He has been ready to play,” Scott said. “When he got opportunities last year, he made some big plays. But, I think, with Amari going down, it is kind of the next best guy up and right now he is in that position.
“He still has to earn it all through fall camp. But he has done a really good job this summer and from what I have seen today.”
Clemson will continue practice today.