Things did not start out so well for Clemson’s wide receivers in 2020.
All-ACC receiver Justyn Ross was lost for the year when he underwent spinal surgery on June 5. In the first game of the season, Joseph Ngata suffered an abdominal strain that nagged him all year. It eventually led to him missing the last five games of the season after he had surgery.
A few weeks after Ngata’s injury, Frank Ladson was banged up. He missed two full games because of an injured foot and he never totally healed.
At one point, Clemson was without all three players, who many expected to be starters along with senior Amari Rodgers.
Luckily for the Tigers, Cornell Powell emerged as an All-ACC receiver and serious deep threat, while freshman E.J. Williams came along strong at the end of the year, giving Trevor Lawrence another tall target who could go up and get the football.
The three of them combined for 2,208 yards and 16 touchdowns, while catching 154 passes.
Rodgers earned First-Team All-ACC honors after he led the ACC with 77 receptions. He finished second in the league in yards with 1,020 and tied for fourth in touchdown receptions with seven.
Powell was voted to the All-ACC third team at season’s end. The fifth-year senior really stepped up in the absence of Ross, Ladson and Ngata. He finished the season second on the team with 53 catches for 882 yards and seven touchdowns.
His 882 yards ranked fifth in the ACC, while his seven scores were tied with Rodgers for fourth best in the league. Powell led the Tigers with four 100-yard receiving games, including a team-high eight catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.
Williams finished the season with 24 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns. However, the freshman really came on down the stretch. He had three catches for 38 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers’ win over Pitt, while he grabbed a career-high four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship Game.
Clemson also saw flashes of what Brannon Spector is capable of, as well as freshman Ajou Ajou during the course of the season.
It makes you wonder how good this year’s wide receiving corps could have been if guys like Ross, Ngata and Ladson had not been injured.