Playing the slot position in Clemson’s offense is no small task. There is a lot of pressure that comes with it.
Just look at the success of the guys who have played the position. Hunter Renfrow, Adam Humphries, Jaron Brown and Tyler Grisham, who now serves as the Tigers’ wide receiver coach. Renfrow, Humphries and Brown are all having successful careers in the NFL, while Grisham also played in the league before becoming a coach.
Then the last couple of years Amari Rodgers has been the starter for the Tigers in the slot. In 2020, 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.
This week, Rodgers is participating in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., hoping to become the next former Clemson slot receiver to make it into the NFL.
Those are all big shoes to fill, but the Tigers have the players to do it. Brannon Spector is the likely choice to start the spring in the slot. He did start a game there last year as a redshirt freshman.
However, Spector is not the only candidate that will work in the slot position in the spring. Look for others to cross train there and be in the mix, such as junior Frank Ladson and sophomore E.J. Williams.
Freshmen Beaux and Dacari Collins, not related, will also be competing.
Below is TCI’s projected depth chart (slot receiver position) for spring practice.
Baylon Spector, *So., 6-1, 195: The brother of current linebacker Baylon, Spector played in 11 games last season, including one start, while hauling in 16 passes for 136 yards. His best game came against Virginia, as he caught four passes for 32 yards. Spector is faster and more athletic than Renfrow. He runs clean routes and has good hands. He spent much of last season playing behind Rodgers.
Frank Ladson, Jr., 6-3, 205: Ladson is expected to be at full strength after suffering through a season of nagging injuries in 2020. He is a deep threat that can play any of the Tigers’ three positions. He will enter 2021 with 27 career receptions for 409 yards and six touchdowns. He has played in 25 games in his career, including four starts. This past season, a foot injury sidelined him for a couple of games and caused him to sit early in a few others after limited action. He still caught 18 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns.
E.J. Williams, So., 6-3, 190: Williams, who played with Justyn Ross in high school, emerged as a playmaker late in the 2020 campaign and is a legit All-ACC caliber player. Williams finished the season with 24 receptions for 306 yards and two touchdowns. As a true freshman, he 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.
Beaux Collins, Fr., 6-3, 195: Collins will fit right in with Clemson’s receiving corps as another big, long athlete. Strong and physical, Collins can climb the ladder and make contested catches in jump-ball situations. He is an effective route-runner and a smooth runner in general with good long speed. Overall, his combination of size, speed and athleticism makes him a matchup nightmare for many opposing defenders. Collins is one of three receivers that Clemson signed during the December early signing period, along with Dacari Collins and Troy Stellato. The trio will try to provide a boost to the Tigers’ receiver corps, which was challenged from a depth standpoint this past season with Justyn Ross out for the year, and Frank Ladson and Joseph Ngata sidelined for much of the year while dealing with injuries.
Dacari Collins, Fr., 6-4, 200: Collins will give the Tigers yet another big, long and athletic wideout. He wants to stay at that playing weight in order to maintain his speed. As a receiver, Collins is good at getting out of breaks with his quickness and agility and uses his speed to stretch the field vertically. He runs with long strides and is a smooth, fluid runner, while he is dependable as a pass catcher with soft hands and has a wide catch radius. He can reach out and snag passes over the shoulder and has the ability to go up and come down with 50-50 balls as well. His big body and ball skills should make him a threat in the red zone. Collins fits the mold of a typical Clemson receiver with his size and skillset and has the tools to be another big-time weapon for “Wide Receiver U” in the future.