It’s been another struggle for Clemson’s receivers for much of this season.
After plummeting to 103rd nationally in passing yards on a per-game basis last season, the Tigers have only been marginally better this season. Clemson ranks 84th in the FBS in the same category heading into its ACC title bout with North Carolina on Saturday.
Things started off promising with the Tigers averaging more than 247 passing yards through the first half of the season. But the running game (39th nationally) has done most of the heavy lifting since for an offense that’s dealing with more inconsistent play from quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei and a receiving corps that hasn’t provided much help.
Only one receiver has caught more than five passes in a game this season, and that’s true freshman Antonio Williams. The first-year wideout is also the Tigers’ leading receiver with 50 receptions. That’s 18 more catches than the next person on the list, tight end Davis Allen.
Behind him is a running back, Will Shipley, who’s caught 30 passes out of the backfield.
The next-closest receiver to Williams in the receptions department is senior Joseph Ngata, who’s got 28 catches. No other wideout on the roster has more than 22.
“Just a lack of confidence and a lack of details,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said when pressed as to the struggles of the receivers. “Guys really just (not) stepping up.”
Clemson’s most recent loss was the latest example. The receiving corps combined for just five catches as a whole on a day in which the Tigers threw for a season-low 99 yards. One play – a 59-yard grab by Beaux Collins in the second quarter – accounted for more than half of those.
The Tigers have sorely missed that kind of playmaking ability from Collins down the stretch and will now have to wait until next season to get it back. A separated shoulder cost him two games earlier this month. Collins, who had five touchdown catches in the first six games, had his shoulder pop out on him again later in last week’s game, which will require season-ending surgery to fix, Swinney said.
But those who have been available all season at the position have had also had their issues with drops. The Tigers had a handful more against South Carolina, including one by Antonio Williams on what would’ve been a big gainer down the middle of the field. E.J. Williams had another on a slant near midfield on what proved to be Clemson’s final possession of the game after the Tigers punted later in the drive with time ticking away.
Swinney said he’s still excited about the group, particularly some of the other youngsters Clemson has at the position. True freshman Adam Randall seen his reps increase since returning early in the season from a torn ACL he sustained in the spring. Swinney is also high on another freshman wideout, Cole Turner, who’s in line to redshirt.
But the production at the position has left a lot to be desired.
“I think we’ve got a good group,” Swinney said. “Beaux is a great player, and then we’ve just got a couple of other guys that have struggled from a consistency standpoint. It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are.”
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