Clemson has been known as “Wide Receiver U” for some time now.
Part of that reason is due to the tall and lanky receivers it has had over the years, starting with DeAndre Hopkins in 2009 and more recently Mike Williams, Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross in the Tigers’ national championship seasons. They are guys that can jump out of a gym. It is never 50-50 balls, but more like 80-20.
However, that was not the case last year. Ross was lost for the season before summer break even hit and Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson could not stay healthy. That left the Tigers’ passing attack in the hands of 5-10, 210-pound Amari Rodgers and 6-foot, 210-pound Cornell Powell.
“We were small last year,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Though Rodgers was a first team All-ACC receiver and Powell was named to the third team, Clemson’s passing game was not the same. The Tigers did not have that true go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver until freshman E.J. Williams started to show some of his ability late in the season.
As a result, defenses focused on stopping running back Travis Etienne and making it more difficult to score in the red zone.
“Again, Ross, Ngata and Ladson were not here and those were three big dudes,” Swinney said. “E.J. has great size, but of course, he was a true freshman.”
It is going to be more difficult for defenses to load up on stopping the run this coming season. On their current roster, the Tigers have 12 pass catchers, that is including tight ends, that are 6-foot-3 or taller.
“We got some big ole’ tall redwoods out there… We got a good group,” Swinney said. “We are certainly excited about the personnel at that position. There is no doubt about it… We are excited about the guys we have at those spots.”
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