Having been around Justyn Ross on a regular basis as the wide receivers coach at Central High School (Phenix City, Ala.), Justin Albert was not surprised to see Ross explode for 153 yards and a touchdown while making big plays in the national spotlight during Clemson’s championship win over Alabama in January.
“I think everybody in Phenix City knew what he was going to do,” Albert told The Clemson Insider during our Tour of Champions visit to Alabama this weekend. “Just because we saw it every day – not just his senior year, but his junior year, 10th-grade year. It was an everyday thing. Those one-handed catches, that was not amazing to us because we always see it.
“So, we expect him to continue to do the same things, and that’s just what kind of player Justyn is. He’s going to fight for the ball, and he’s got really good hand-eye coordination and he’s going to make a play if the ball’s in the air.”
Albert played college football himself, spending two seasons as a walk-on at Auburn in 2008-’09 before transferring to Troy to finish out his career. He played four years at Prattville High in Prattville, Ala., and won back-to-back state championships in Class 6A (2006 and 2007).
Although Albert and Central High no longer have Ross as a go-to guy in their receiving corps, they have plenty of other weapons at wideout including four-star E.J. Williams.
Williams, who announced his commitment to Clemson on Saturday, caught 40 passes for 668 yards receiving and eight touchdowns as a junior last season, helping Central win the 7A state championship in 2018.
“E.J., he’s a great player, but I wouldn’t say he’s the first,” Albert said. “Central always has talent, it’s just about getting kids in the right position, making the right plays. Justyn Ross, that’s kind of where it started, just being a dominant guy. Everybody wants to fill the shoes of Justyn Ross because of his success, and he’s just a great kid. So, with E.J., he’s the same-caliber guy. He’s got the upside just like Ross does, and I think he’s going to have a fantastic future.”
On the field, Albert describes Williams as a leader and hardworking player who does things the right way.
Albert has witnessed Williams’ growth off the field, as well, and views himself as a big-brother figure to Williams, whose father passed away when he was younger.
“I treat him like a little brother,” Albert said. “He’ll come stay with me sometimes, with my family. My daughter and fiancé, they love him. Actually the other day, he came over to the house and he was jumping on the trampoline with my daughter. So, it’s kind of cool to see him emerge like that and catch hold of us. Same thing with us, we’re catching hold of him, and it’s just a really good feeling to have a kid like that who’s so good.”
Albert is excited about what the future holds for Williams and believes great things are ahead of him at Clemson.
“When you get E.J., you’re going to get an excellent kid, a kid with a great attitude, a kid that speaks well, a kid that takes coaching, a kid that’s going to give his heart to that school, and he’s going to be there three to four years,” Albert said. “I just think they’re getting a really good guy, a kid that’s going to make plays. He’s going to be respectful. He’s got a great GPA, so of course you’re not going to worry about his grades or his classroom, because that’s part of what his mom is all about.
“I think (Clemson) is going to get an excellent kid, and I look forward to watching him play.”
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