Clemson’s depth at wide receiver was tested in 2020 with star playmaker Justyn Ross out for the season after undergoing offseason spinal surgery, and talented sophomores Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata both missing substantial time while dealing with various injuries.
Head coach Dabo Swinney jokes if Tyler Grisham knew before the season that he would be without three of his best weapons for much of the campaign, he might have called it quits before his first season as Clemson’s receivers coach even started.
“We’ve had some challenges this year at receiver from a depth standpoint,” Swinney said recently. “We really have. If you’d have told us back in the spring we weren’t going to have Justyn Ross, Frank Ladson or Joseph Ngata for most of the year, Grisham might’ve resigned. First job, and he might’ve just packed up and left.”
The good news for the Tigers is, as Swinney put it, “help is on the way” for their receiving corps heading into next season.
Clemson signed a trio of standout wideouts during the December early signing period in Beaux Collins, Dacari Collins and Troy Stellato. Beaux and Dacari both arrived on campus this week as early enrollees, while Stellato will enroll this summer.
The Tigers also signed Will Taylor in December as part of their 2021 recruiting class. Clemson’s plan for Taylor, according to Swinney, is to train him as a quarterback for a year and then move him to receiver, where Swinney believes his career will ultimately end up.
“Let me tell you, help is on the way with these three young men that we got, and Will Taylor,” Swinney said. “Will Taylor will eventually, a year or so, end up in that room as well I think. But these three guys coming in … man, let me tell you, this is three dudes right here that are going to make that (receiver) room get well in a hurry.”
Beaux Collins, Dacari Collins and Stellato are all highly regarded prospects, with all three rated as four-stars and considered top-200 national players according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
Whereas some players are raw in terms of their development coming out of high school – such as Clemson receiver Ajou Ajou was entering his freshman season in 2020, for example – that is not the case with the aforementioned trio.
“These three guys, they are very polished wide receivers at this stage,” Swinney said. “They still have a lot of improving to do. But where they are right now from a route-running standpoint, just understanding how to influence things, breakpoints, ball skills, all those things – very polished guys.”
The highest-rated receiver of the trio is Beaux Collins, a top-50 national prospect according to ESPN.
Collins was teammates with Clemson rising sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei for two seasons at St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.). Collins did not have a 2020 high school season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as a junior in 2019, he recorded 41 receptions for 1,008 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 24.6 yards per reception.
“Man, we’re getting another polished guy,” Grisham said. “I think a guy that can play both the boundary and the field position. But very polished, and he loves the game. He loves to work at his craft. He’s always trying to improve… So, really proud of him and expecting big things from him when he arrives.”
As for Dacari Collins, a top-150 national prospect per ESPN, he began his high school career at McEachern in Powder Springs, Ga., before playing his senior season at Atlanta’s Westlake High – the same school that produced former Clemson and current Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell.
In the first 11 games of the 2020 season, Collins had 48 catches for 842 yards and eight scores, averaging 17.5 yards per catch.
“A great, great receiver prospect,” Swinney said. “He is big, he’s long, he’s physically developed, he’s got great twitch, and a great young man. Committed early (on Sept. 7, 2019). Another guy that we had in camp. So, think he’s going to be a great addition for us.”
Stellato, meanwhile, posted 26 receptions for 325 yards and five scores in the first six games of his pandemic-shortened senior season at Cardinal Gibbons High (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) in 2020.
The consensus national top-300 player according to the major recruiting services racked up 112 career receptions for 1,758 yards and 19 scores in 33 games at the high school level.
“Couple things that come to mind are speed, with him,” Grisham said of Stellato. “So, he has long speed. I didn’t quite have it like he does, and then toughness, just gritty player. He’s like (Clemson receiver) Brannon Spector. He’s going to be kind of similar a little bit in some ways. Can play multiple positions. But man, speed, toughness… He’s hungry, he’s a competitor. Day one, he’s going to try to get on that field and be the starter day one. That’s what he wants to do, and he has the work ethic to match that. So, really excited about what he can bring to the table.”