Despite losing 2 All-ACC receivers, Tigers might be better in ’21

Despite losing 2 All-ACC receivers, Tigers might be better in ’21

Football

Despite losing 2 All-ACC receivers, Tigers might be better in ’21

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The Clemson offense got a big shot in the arm when Justyn Ross announced last month he was returning to Clemson for one more season.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver missed all of the 2020 season after undergoing spinal surgery last June. There was a time when some wondered if the honorable mention All-ACC wide receiver was going to even play football again.

Though nothing officially was released by Clemson on Ross’ current health status, it seems certain the star receiver was cleared to play on all accounts given the video of his return posted on Clemson Football’s official social media platforms.

What does Ross’ return mean to the 2021 Tigers? It means Clemson gets back a legitimate gamebreaker at wide receiver.

The Tigers already had the potential of having game-changing playmakers at wideout in 2021. Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson are expected to be at full strength after suffering through a season of nagging injuries in 2020.

E.J. Williams, who played with 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.

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.

The Tigers still have to replace the production left behind from Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell, but with Ross coming back, they bring back an All-American caliber player for D.J. Uiagalelei to throw the ball to. It should also take pressure off Uiagalelei’s other targets and create more one-on-one matchups for them.

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.

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.

Ross played in 29 games and started 14 of them across the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He has 112 career receptions for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is averaging 16.7 yards per catch in his career.

The Phenix City, Ala., native’s best season came as a freshman when he busted onto the scene in college football with his big-play capabilities. He finished his freshman campaign with 46 catches for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.

Ross really came on in the College Football Playoff that year when he caught six passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame and then six more receptions for 153 yards and another score in the CFP National Championship victory over Alabama.

In 2019, he led Clemson with 66 catches, while recording 865 yards and eight more touchdowns. He was an All-ACC honorable mention selection that season.

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