A year removed from when he tore his ACL during a spring practice, Amari Rodgers felt like a different player this past spring. His head coach noticed it, too.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Rodgers was “all gas” in the Tigers’ nine spring practices, as the senior had the pedal to the medal when it came to his effort and speed. It also helps that the Knoxville, Tenn., native was playing without a brace on the formerly injured right knee.
“I feel much freer,” Rodgers said. “I feel a lot faster, more explosive, because I feel like the brace was extra weight. So now I just feel lighter and I can play more free and I can play fast on every single rep, so it’s definitely an advantage.”
Rodgers wore a brace all of last season after returning from surgery in 166 days. His first game back was against Texas A&M in Week 2 where he played sparingly. The next week at Syracuse, he had a career-game with 121 yards on four catches, including a nifty 87-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter for a touchdown.
He also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence in the Tigers’ 41-6 victory.
The Clemson receiver said after the game he felt that was the fastest he has ever run.
Rodgers finished the 2019 season with 30 receptions for 426 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing twice for 50 yards and a score and returning 18 punts for 151 yards.
Though he could have turned pro, Rodgers was intent on coming back for his senior year at Clemson and was glad he made that decision when he spoke to the media prior to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the rest of spring drills.
“I’m excited about coming back,” he said. “When I saw [my old teammates] out there at the [scouting] combine, it just made me more excited to know that I’ll possibly have that opportunity next year. It’s just motivation for me to do well this season and have that opportunity so I can go out there and show the world what I can do.”
Rodgers has high hopes for his final year at Clemson and is putting in a lot of work to improve his game and help the Tigers make another run at a national championship. One of the things he has done, he is spending extra time with receivers’ coach Tyler Grisham, before and after practice, to get more mobility in his hips.
“I’m just trying to get my hip stronger so I can come out of breaks better and be more explosive with the ball in my hands,” Rodgers said. “Also, I’m always catching jugs, working on my hands every single day so I can catch every ball that comes my way. And, also, working on being a leader because I’m a senior now and a lot of guys look up to me.”
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