A lot of people thought Justyn Ross had a down year in 2019.
Statistically, they were right. After tallying 46 receptions for a team-high 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns as a true freshman in 2018, the Clemson receiver recorded just 865 yards and eight touchdowns last year, though his 66 receptions did lead the team.
However, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney explained statistics don’t always tell the entire story.
“He had maybe more big plays (in 2018), but sometimes people play you differently, and we had a bunch of games where we didn’t play – just think if he would have played four quarters every game,” Swinney said. “Just go and look at all the games that he didn’t play hardly in the third or fourth quarter, so he did most of that in two quarters of play for the majority of the season. What did we win, 12 games by a bunch of points? So, he had a heck of a year, especially for all the limited play that he had.”
Ross burst on to the national scene thanks to his performance in the 2019 College Football Playoff, when he combined to catch 12 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns in blowout wins over Notre Dame and Alabama. His game against Alabama in the national championship, really caught everyone’s attention and was a big reason why the AP writers voted him as a pre-season All-American prior to last year.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver was hoping a good spring would get him ready to show the media there was nothing wrong with him in 2019. However, he suffered a minor neck stinger halfway through the Tigers’ nine practices and missed most of the last week.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the rest of spring practice was canceled. Following the Tigers’ only stadium scrimmage of the spring, the day before everything was canceled, Swinney reiterated the medical staff was erring on the side of caution with Ross.
The junior is expected to be the No. 1 wideout for Clemson this season following the departure of Tee Higgins to the NFL.
“It was a stinger. It wasn’t really much at all, but he just kind of had a little lingering stinger and then he was fine,” Swinney said. “But any time you have that where it lingers just a little bit, you want to be very precautious, so that’s what our doctors are doing.”
Swinney indicated Ross was running full speed in the final practice of the spring and he looked good in doing it. However, he was held out of full contact drills to make sure there were no other issues.
When Swinney spoke with reporters last month to update the progress of the football program during the pandemic, he indicated Ross will be ready to go whenever the Tigers can get back to campus and begin work on the 2020 football season.
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