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Wide Receivers

Click Names Below For Player Pages


Hunter Renfrow, 5WR

Trevion Thompson, 5WR

T.J. Chase, 5WR

Cornell Powell, 2WR

Diondre Overton, 9WR

Tee Higgins, 9WR

Amari Rodgers, 2WR

Derion Kendrick, 2WR

Justyn Ross, 9WR


Reminder of what the Wide Receiver positions are:

  • 9WR – This is the spot for the biggest matchup advantage and most dominant WR.  The 9 is going to be lined up to the boundary side of the formation (or to the weak side). The offense will either have him matched up 1-on-1 against a CB or, if the CB can’t handle the 9WR, the defense will have to bracket him backside with 2 DBs and open up opportunities for the rest of the offense. The 9WR lineage: Nuk Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Mike Williams, and Deon Cain.
  • 5WR – The is the slot WR position that is typically lined up inside the 2WR on the wide side.  The 5WR is a possession receiver tasked with running ins, outs, curls, and crossers.  The 5 also gets the clutch corner route in our smash concept. He is also typically tasked with blocking on bubble and tunnel screens. He has to be Mr. First Down and also get his hands dirty and play football. The 5WR lineage: Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries, and Hunter Renfrow.
  • 2WR – This is the WR that goes in motion and runs the jet sweeps. The 2 should be a great athlete that is electric with the ball in his hands.  The 2 lines up outside on the wide side and is usually a burner with wiggle.  He will catch the most bubble screens, but must also be capable of threatening the defense downfield and will run a lot of the same routes as the 9WR. The 2WR lineage: Sammy Watkins, Artavis Scott, and Ray Ray McCloud.

Green = things I got right/ Red = things I got wrong


I’m not sure if Clemson has ever lost as much offensive firepower as they did between the 2016 and 2017 seasons. WR was certainly a position that was downgraded. Mike Williams was arguably the best WR in the nation his senior year and Artavis Scott ended his Clemson career as the all-time leader in receptions. Both were picked up by the Chargers, Williams with the #7 overall pick and Scott as a free agent. It’s worth noting that Scott, who spent last year on the practice squad, is drawing rave reviews from the Chargers staff and has a decent shot to make the team this year. I think it would be awesome to see Williams and Scott out there at the same time on an NFL team just like they were at Clemson. #WRU

With those two gone, their hand-picked 5-Star replacements got the opportunity to shine as starters. Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud came right in as true freshmen and jumped in the WR rotation. When Williams fractured his neck at the beginning of the 2015 season, Cain became the deep threat that the offense was missing. As a true freshman who didn’t play WR in HS, he showed a tremendous amount of upside. McCloud seemed to move ahead of Renfrow in the WR pecking order after Renfrow fumbled at Syracuse, but an injury against FSU gave Renfrow his playing time back and he never relinquished his spot.

Cain and McCloud were good WRs last year, it’s just that when compared with Williams and Scott, they were a downgrade. I’m sure at most other schools, those two would be a godsend. Perhaps the QB played a major role in their lack of elite production, but Tiger fans are hoping for a return to elite production in 2018. Both Cain and McCloud decided to leave early after the season and both were drafted in the 6th round. Higgins and Rodgers ascension was certainly a factor in the decision, as the amount of playing time for the two would have decreased.


Reminder of what the Wide Receiver positions are:

    • 9WR – This is the spot for the biggest matchup advantage and most dominant WR.  The 9 is going to be lined up to the boundary side of the formation (or weak side). The offense will either have him matched up 1-on-1 against a CB or, if the CB can’t handle the 9WR, the defense will have to put 2 DBs on the weak side and open up opportunities for the rest of the offense. The 9WR lineage: Nuk Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Mike Williams, and Deon Cain.
    • 5WR – The is the slot WR position that is typically lined up inside the 2WR on the wide side.  The 5WR is a possession receiver tasked with running ins, outs, curls, and crossers.  The 5 also gets the clutch corner route in our smash concept. He is also typically tasked with blocking on bubble and tunnel screens. He has to be Mr. First Down and also get his hands dirty and play football. The 5WR lineage: Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries, and Hunter Renfrow.
    • 2WR – This is the WR that goes in motion and runs the jet sweeps. The 2 should be a great athlete that is electric with the ball in his hands.  The 2 lines up outside on the wide side and is usually a burner with wiggle.  He will catch the most bubble screens, but must also be capable of threatening the defense downfield and will run a lot of the same routes as the 9WR. The 2WR lineage: Sammy Watkins, Artavis Scott, and Ray Ray McCloud.

Fall Camp Depth Chart

9WR: Tee Higgins, Tevion Thompson, Diondre Overton

5WR: Hunter Renfrow, T.J. Chase, Will Swinney

2WR: Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, Derion Kendrick

I post this every year, so let’s keep it going: “Surprise, we’re loaded at WR.”

Hunter Renfrow has been the one constant at the WR position. In 2018, he will be a 4th-year starter and is arguably the best slot WR in college football. You know what he does and how valuable he is, so I don’t feel the need to rehash that here.

Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers are the new starters at the 9WR and 2WR positions. Both players have leap-frogged older players into the starting lineup and likely would have even leapfrogged Cain and RRM if they had stayed.  Higgins, as you know, is a beast. He has the ability to be the difference maker at 9WR and should compare favorably with the 9WR lineage from 2011-2016. In the spring game, he was the best player on the field and showed the 5-Star play-making ability on the boundary that can make the entire offense better.

Rodgers is a 2WR with a greater skill-set than Artavis Scott and Ray Ray McCloud. Both Scott and McCloud could do certain things on the field better than Rodgers, but Rodgers is a more complete WR. I don’t foresee any of the three starters above being challenged for their starting roles in fall camp this year.


Season Depth Chart

9WR: Tee Higgins, Diondre Overton, Trevion Thompson

5WR: Hunter Renfrow, Trevion Thompson, T.J. Chase

2WR: Amari Rodgers, Derion Kendrick, Cornell Powell

During spring practices, we got several scoops of Trevion Thompson hype from the staff. I think we were all surprised that TT was listed as the starter at one point in fall camp. Of course, as I said in my coachspeak articles, this was designed to make Higgins and Overton understand that nothing will be handed to them and that they need to be working hard. We saw TT in the spring game, and while he has improved, both Higgins and Overton are more dynamic players at the 9WR position. So, I see TT moving back to the same role he has had since 2015. TT is the best blocking WR and can play both 9WR and 5WR. He provides an added dimension of physicality and deserves to be out there. I believe that he can be used as perimeter blocker that we could sneak out for big gainers on screen and go and sweep and go.

I expect TT to be the primary backup to Renfrow at 5 WR. T.J. Chase has shown flashes in garbage time, but he has never really recovered from showing up 2 inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter than advertised his freshman year. Since 2011, Thompson is the only scholarship WR to redshirt and still be a WR at Clemson during his last year of eligibility. If Chase is going to join him, he needs to develop those grinder characteristics that all the good 5WRs in our system have had.

I have Derion Kendrick surpassing Cornell Powell above. Kendrick doesn’t have the frame that Powell does, but he is a burner with downfield ability and electricity with the ball in his hands. Powell has downfield ability as well and has shown a knack for winning battles with the ball in the air, but for some reason the staff doesn’t regard Powell in the same light as Rodgers and Kendrick. Powell played some safety in the spring, and I expect him to continue to take reps there in the fall.


The Kraken Depth Chart

9WR: Tee Higgins, Diondre Overton, Justyn Ross

5WR: Hunter Renfrow, Trevion ThoSmpson, T.J. Chase, Will Brown

2WR: Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell, Derion Kendrick

Mine is basically the same as above except that I have Justyn Ross avoiding a redshirt and taking the #3 9WR spot behind Overton. I also have Will Brown in there just because of the two nice catches in the spring game on staple plays in our offense. Cornell Powell remains ahead of Kendrick on my chart, but I’ll certainly admit that Kendrick could begin to outplay Powell at some point in the season.


ring Preview 2018

Hunter Renfrow, 5WR

Renfrow has nothing to prove this spring. He is probably the best and most reliable slot receiver in the country. That doesn’t mean he should rest on his laurels whatsoever. He can get bigger, faster, and stronger this offseason and come back even better if he continues to put the effort in. With probable NFL aspirations and after the payback that Minkah Fitzpatrick got on him in the playoff game, that shouldn’t be an issue.


Tee Higgins, 9WR

Higgins national coming out party was apparently scheduled for the playoff game against Alabama, but an early injury delayed that plan. Higgins had started to break out before that though and looked ready for primetime. Higgins was ridiculous in the The Citadel game with 6 catches for 178 yards and 2 TDs. He game back against SC and caught 3 for 84. He ended up right where Mike Williams was his freshman year at 4th on the team in receiving. He averaged a whopping 20.3 yards per reception which is the highest average since Martavis Bryant in 2012.

Mike Williams exploded on to the scene as a sophomore and I expect Higgins to do the same. Technically, he will be involved in a battle with Diondre Overton in the spring and fall, but I think we all expect Higgins to win that battle and be a force next season. Higgins is a very rare talent. Hopefully he adds some weight and puts the extended reps this spring to good use.


Amari Rodgers, 2WR

With the last three 2WRs we have recruited, you can see that we’re not bringing in the jitterbug style of Ray Ray McCloud and we’re back to more complete WRs. The three guys, Powell, Rodgers, and Kendrick, are coming in to Clemson at around 200 pounds and two of them are 6’1.” Like Sammy and Artavis, these are guys that can do something after the catch, but they are more skilled down the field.

Rodgers is only 5’10,” but he was able to come in and pass Cornell Powell on the depth chart midway through his freshman season last year. He’s thick, tough, and a solid route runner like Artavis Scott, but he has better hands. He should start the season off as a starter, but he has to fend off Powell and Kendrick this spring.


Diondre Overton, 9WR

Overton entered the season as the 4th best WR last year, and he will enter spring this year in the same spot. He will have to take the starting spot from Higgins, but I’m not sure it really matters.  Dabo and Jeff Scott have been comfortable rotating a three deep at WR and Overton and Higgins are far ahead of anyone else at 9WR. Heading into the spring, their competition consists of Trevion Thompson who mostly plays 5WR and maybe Kanyon Tuttle, a walk on. Since Justyn Ross doesn’t arrive until the fall, these two are set up for a busy spring.

I’m expecting Overton and Higgins to be a big priority. The ability of the 9WR to win 1-on-1 battles is such a key component of the offense, that it is important to have no doubt that we’re going to reload with an intimidator out there. Like Higgins, Overton needs to add weight to his frame to maximize effectiveness in 1-on-1 battles.


Cornell Powell, 2WR

After the spring he had last year, I’m a little surprised Rodgers was able to pass him on the depth chart. I don’t feel like we ever saw Powell get an in-game opportunity to show what he could do. I think he has ability and it is not like Dabo to move freshman above sophomores that are as close in ability as Rodgers and Powell. So if you’re looking for an example of that happening, here it is. Even worse for Powell, it could happen to him again this year with Derion Kendrick.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Powell this spring. I think a position change could happen for him if Kendrick is the real deal. The most likely place for him is 5WR, but I think 9WR and SS are possible also.


Trevion Thompson, 5WR

Thompson has had the distinction of being the best blocking WR for the past couple of seasons, but with all of talent at 5WR and 9WR, he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He’s received opportunities, but some costly drops, route running issues, and not being the best after the catch have limited his role.

Now as a senior, the goal for TT is to continue to develop and hold down the #2 spot at 5WR and the #3 spot at 9WR. TT should be plenty motivated to do that because at any moment, the staff could move Chase or Powell in front of him.  I think the staff is going to be interested in identifying the heir apparent to Renfrow before the end of next season. Being a senior, that person is not going to be Thompson.


T.J. Chase, 5WR

As a freshman, Chase spent the year putting on weight. Last year, he had a great spring game followed by some sporadic playing time as the #3 5WR.  Chase is not the physical presence as a blocker that TT has been, but he is proficient enough as a route runner to be given an opportunity as Renfrow’s replacement. Like seemingly all of our young 5WRs and 9WRs, Chase needs to continue to add weight and strength. He entered Clemson woefully underweight, but was able to add 20 in his first year.

Chase has 3 years of eligibility left and with a strong spring and fall camp could position himself as the heir apparent to Renfrow. He is already the only scholarship 5WR that will be here in 2019, so starting this spring, it’s time for Chase to capitalize. He’s already fundamentally sound and has good instincts, it’s the physicality of the college game that seems to be the last piece of the puzzle.


Derion Kendrick, 2WR

As always, much of the media focus this spring should be on the “new toy,” Derion Kendrick. As an early enrollee, he should walk right in and start running with the 3s at 2WR.  Kendrick has some serious wheels and play-making ability, moreso than either Powell or Rodgers in my estimation. So, I’m sure we’re going to hear good things about that aspect of his game from the media. However, unless he’s Etienne-like in his burst, that will not be good enough.

Kendrick’s job this spring is to be a sponge. He’s not there to beat out Powell per say, although he certainly could. That goal is months, if not a year, away from becoming the priority. He has to learn alignments, steps, motions, plays, technique, blocking responsibilities, etc. and that should keep him busy in the spring.


The Legacy Club:  Kanyon Tuttle, Will Swinney, Drew Swinney

Walk on WRs, Carter Groomes and Jayson Hopper, got some pub from Dabo last year, but they are no longer on the team. So, unless someone moves to WR, I anticipate that these are the guys that will backfill the reps this spring. We’re loaded at WR, and it goes without saying that, while it would be a nice story for these guys to ascend up the depth chart, it is not likely.

Tuttle is entering his 4th year in the program and I have him working the #3 spot at 9WR. That’s an educated guess based on how practices work, but it seems like the most likely place for him to get reps. As you know, his Dad is one of the best WRs to ever play here and was the guy on the iconic Sports Illustrated cover from January of 1982. In my opinion, the most interesting thing that could happen for Tuttle is to be moved to 5WR. At 5’10″/170, he’s not going to play 9WR here.  However, if they give him a shot at 5WR, that would say more about how the staff feels about T.J. Chase moving forward.

The Swinney brothers are just like their Dad. They’re tough, fearless, good route runners, and slow. I think Will is the better route runner and Drew has more intangibles. Will played some 2WR in games last year, but I think they are both 5WRs. Neither of them are dynamic enough to be effective at 2WR, but both of them could one day give us a rep or two at 5WR. Working the slot is about good breaks on your routes, finding the holes in the zone, and catching the ball in traffic. I don’t want to say they’ll never play here, I mean, their Dad is the head coach so he can do whatever he wants. It’s just that it’s doubtful they ever become legitimate contributors during meaningful snaps.

 


2017

WR Fall Camp Depth Chart

9WR: Deon Cain, Diondre Overton, Tee Higgins

5WR: Hunter Renfrow, T.J. Chase, Trevion Thompson

2WR: Ray Ray McCloud, Cornell Powell, Amari Rodgers

Surprise! We’re loaded at WR.

Yes, the loss of Mike Williams hurts. We will miss his body control, hands, and that gigantic catch radius.  Deshaun was able to just throw it up in his direction and rely on him to make a play. In fact, I think he and the staff relied on Williams a little too much. He became the crutch for the offense and I thought Deshaun missed some open guys because of it. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes the same type of crutch for Phillip Rivers in the NFL.

With Williams gone, the Tigers will enter fall camp without a 1st round caliber WR for the first time since 2010. So, the main question for fall camp is going to be, “how much playing time will these backups steal away from the incumbents?” Overton, Powell, and Chase looked awfully good in the spring game.  In fact, I’d have to say that Overton and Powell outplayed Cain and Ray Ray. Everybody agrees that Tee Higgins is a stud and maybe the next 1st round type WR. Who’s going to keep him off the field?


WR Season Depth Chart

9WR: Deon Cain or Diondre Overton, Tee Higgins

5WR: Hunter Renfrow, T.J. Chase or Trevion Thompson

2WR: Ray Ray McCloud or Cornell Powell, Amari Rodgers

This is a position group that is deep and very talented, but also in flux. I expect the deck to get shuffled a couple times during the season. By that I mean that different skills by different WRs can be used against opponent’s weaknesses.  For example, a 5’9″ CB is likely to see more Diondre Overton and Cornell Powell.  A team with a CB that jumps the short routes is likely to see more Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud.

By now, we, and Clemson’s opponents, know the strengths and weaknesses of the outside WRs.  Cain is a burner, but he has issues going up and getting the ball in traffic.  RRM is electric with the ball in his hands and after the catch, but he’s not great at getting open downfield. So, the door is open for the young talent to carve out a lot of playing time. Tee Higgins is the wild card here. He’s got the goods, and depending on how much muscle he has added in the offseason, he can start stealing reps as soon as he is mentally ready.


The Kraken Depth Chart

9WR: Diondre Overton, Deon Cain, Tee Higgins, Trevion Thompson

5WR: Hunter Renfrow, T.J. Chase or Cornell Powell, Trevion Thompson

2WR: Deon Cain, Ray Ray McCloud or Cornell Powell, Amari Rodgers

One thing I would do is cross-train Deon Cain at 2WR starting in fall camp.  If RRM or Cornell Powell gets injured, we will need someone to take the 2nd string reps.  Since TT can play both 9WR and 5WR, but not 2WR, the bigger need would be at 2WR (unless Rodgers proves to be mentally and physically ready).  Another reason I would do it is because Overton looks ready for primetime and if the light comes on for Higgins, Clemson’s best lineup would be Overton at 9, Renfrow at 5, and Cain at 2. This would give Clemson a legitimate deep threat on either side and hopefully loosen up our opponent’s run defense.

I think Higgins plays in every game like Mike Williams did his freshman year, but what he does with the snaps is anybody’s guess. Yes, the odds are against him overtaking Cain or Overton. However, it wouldn’t completely surprise me if he had a coming out party sometime in October and fans entertained thoughts off doing just that.

 


Pre-Spring 2017

The title of “Wide Receiver University” is not going away anytime soon.  If anything, it will become even more solidified in the college football lexicon next season.  Even though Mike Williams and Artavis Scott have wrapped up their excellent Clemson careers and headed to the NFL, this will only add further credibility to that title. I predict this to be a running storyline with announcers calling our games next year.

Picking up the WRU flag and moving forward will be another batch of highly talented players that will now be upperclassmen with the path clear for their turn.  Stepping in for Mike Williams at the 9WR spot should be no problem for Deon Cain.  As a true freshman in 2015, with limited experience playing the position, Cain filled the void left when Mike Williams was lost for the season.  Cain became the deep threat that the offense desperately needed and scored a TD in 5 straight games while leading the team in yards per reception.

Of course, over Christmas break, Cain would be tempted by the Devil’s Lettuce and ended up being suspended for the playoff games and the spring. Cain was also suspended for the Miami game earlier that year and, as a 2-time offender, Dabo had to lay down the law.  Cain was asked to prove he wanted to be at Clemson and could obey the rules while he was suspended.  He did that and returned to the team last fall in a backup role to Williams.

What may have gone unnoticed to many is that he had an even better year last year than he did as a starter in 2015. Cain became a better fundamental WR last year and learned to contribute in other ways.  At the same time, Cain looked faster than he did his freshman year and could seemingly win a footrace off the line anytime he wanted.  Had Watson been as good throwing the deep ball as he was in 2015, Cain would’ve had several more TDs…and he quietly had 9 last year (4th most in the ACC).

Cain’s athleticism and ability to take it to the house with the ball in his hands will create more versatility in the horizontal passing game this year.  This will lead to more variations in both formations and motion in 2017.  If there is anything we are not sure about, it is his ability to run the slants and skinny post routes that we require out of the 9.  If he can do that without fear, it is possible he can be pretty close to the matchup nightmare Mike Williams was last year.  Cain is not going to be a jump ball master like Williams, but with his speed, CBs will be rolling back and that opens up the back-shoulder fade game we like to use.

At 5WR, everybody’s favorite walk-on is back for his junior season.  “Mr. Natty” Hunter Renfrow, has the NFL triple threat of being fearless, having excellent hands, and having excellent lateral movement to get separation.  As we’ve seen on the next level for the past 20 years, this combination is almost unstoppable if you have a QB that can thread the needle. NFL teams are going with 3 WRs (or 11 personnel) more than ever and you’re seeing the Wes Welker, Doug Baldwin, Julian Edelman type WR move the chains at will.

That’s what Renfrow does for us.  The better the defense we are facing, the lower the margin of error, and the more valuable his skill set becomes. If the defense wants to blitz their LBs or use them as spies, Renfrow is typically the guy we use to exploit that. Renfrow is also a proficient blocker out on the edge despite his size. Occasionally, he’ll get manhandled out there but most of the time he makes an acceptable block and plays through the whistle. In a game of inches, Renfrow works hard to make sure Clemson gets them.

Ray Ray McCloud is the projected starter at 2WR and speaking of lateral movement, RRM has it. He started off last season looking like the breakout star of the WR corps by making people miss like a mini-Spiller.  He was so productive early on that it looked like he might surpass Artavis Scott as the starter.  Unfortunately, turnovers and missed assignments derailed him from doing that and after an ankle injury cost him the Syracuse game, he was not much of a factor down the stretch.

This is the 2nd year in a row that RRM has looked good at the beginning of the season, got injured, and remained in the shadows down the stretch.  As a rising Junior, that’s what makes this a big year for him.  He has to become more fundamentally sound as a WR and more durable if he wants to maximize the potential of his 5-star pedigree.

Rodgardner

Rod Gardner

Cornell Powell is a bigger, more durable version at the 2WR.  Powell does not have RRM’s wheels but he may be a more sound WR than RRM already. Powell is good with the ball in his hands and is a more imposing physical threat than RRM in the same way that Artavis was. The staff is well aware of RRM’s deficiencies and I expect Powell to be treated as a more or less a dual starter with RRM this spring.

At the Big Weigh-In last fall, Dabo pointed at Mike Williams and told Diondre Overton, “That’s what you’re going to look like when you grow up.” Overton was very thin last year so, hopefully he has put the work in this spring and will continue to put the work in to improve his size and strength.  Overton is actually taller than Williams, but he lacks the agility and body control of Williams…right now.  Building muscle will coordinate that muscle, and Dabo is right, he can become the pogo-stick that Williams was if he can develop.  Overton does have good speed, and even though Cain is in front of him for another year, the increased playing time in the fall should allow for marked improvement.

If anything happens to Overton or Renfrow, Trevion Thompson is a capable fill-in.  TT is in more of an organizational depth role with the Tigers right now and I don’t expect him to get the same kind of opportunity that the rest of the WRs will receive this spring. It’s not that TT isn’t good. He is good, and his catch against SC in 2015 solidifies his legacy. He is just a known commodity now and there isn’t much the staff needs to know about him.  Thompson lost an opportunity for more meaningful snaps after some drops earlier in the season.

Jerry Butler

Jerry Butler

The opportunities at 5WR appear to be lined up for T.J. Chase this spring. Chase has a tremendous amount of talent and drew a 5-star rating from me coming out of high school. Then he showed up to fall camp at 164 pounds and the staff decided to redshirt him.  The word is that he is in the 185 range now which would mean he is ready to go.

Chase is already a seasoned route runner and has a skill set that is very similar to Sammy Watkins except for the top end speed.  He can do everything you would want a WR to do and it is going to be awfully difficult, even for a reliable veteran like Thompson, to hold him off.  You’ll notice that we signed a 9WR and a 2WR in the 2017 class, but not a 5WR.  We are set at 5WR and it will be interesting to see when they pull the trigger on moving Chase ahead of Thompson.  We’ll see how much the staff thinks we need Thompson’s depth next year because I’m sure the staff knows that moving Chase ahead of him before this fall could force Thompson to look around for a better opportunity.

If we do deal with attrition or injury this fall, there are a few guys that could also provide organizational depth. In fact, the spring is cool because we get to see the guy with the best hands on the team, and it’s not one of the 4 or 5 stars above.  Rising Senior, Seth Ryan, besides being an All American holder if they had one, could give us some plays in a pinch thanks to his great mitts.  If you’re a QB that wants your stats to look good in the spring game, just throw it in Ryan’s vicinity. So far, Ryan has been a 9.  Adrian Dunn is not afraid to get hit and showed that he can catch the ball in traffic. He would be my first choice as the 3rd string 5WR if we lost someone.  Obviously, he’s only going to get limited pl

cooper

Gary Cooper

aying time even then.  Ditto Perry Tuttle’s son, Kanyon Tuttle. I think Tuttle may play more just because of his lineage and who our head coach happens to be. He might get the Daniel Rodriguez treatment during his career here. Jack Swinney, Dabo’s nephew, could get that same treatment as well.

Perry Tuttle

Perry Tuttle

 

 

 

 

 


2016

The last time we saw Mike Williams, he was Clemson’s best all around WR.  I doubt much has changed in that regard. His physical stature makes him a tough matchup for any CB but when you factor in the superb body control and the great route running, he can be damn near unstoppable.  He is the WR that DeShaun Watson had the most confidence in back in 2014 and Watson made a habit out of giving Williams opportunities to make plays.

There is no doubt that the loss of Williams hurt the Tiger offense’s production last year.  Williams broke out as a sophomore in 2014 and appeared to be following in the footsteps of the NFL-level WRs that preceded him.  At 6’5″ and 215 pounds and extremely skilled, Williams seemed like a lock to leave for the pros after his junior season.  Unfortunately, due to a fractured bone in his neck on the first drive of the season, that didn’t happen.  The loss of Williams meant that Clemson was without their primary deep threat and the passing offense would struggle early on.

Charone Peake received the first option to replace Williams at the 9WR.  Peake displayed lackadaisical effort on an intercepted ball against App St. and then had another weak effort on an intercepted ball against Notre Dame that ended up giving them a chance to get back in the game.  The passing game also struggled against Louisville as well when Watson had trouble finding open WRs deep.  Thus, a change was made.

The 5-star freshman, Deon Cain, would get the next opportunity at 9WR and he would not disappoint. Cain showed a tremendous amount of natural athleticism and became the deep threat that the offense desperately needed.  Cain had 96 yards against GT and 97 vs. BC before he had his first discipline issue of the year and was suspended for the Miami game. When Cain returned he became more and more comfortable with his role in the offense and DeShaun became more and more comfortable throwing to him. Cain scored TDs in 5 straight games to finish the regular season.  Then, as you know, he went to visit “Aunt Mary Jane” over Christmas break and failed a drug test. Coach Swinney suspended him for the Oklahoma and Alabama games as well as spring practice this year.  Cain has been reinstated and is currently listed as the backup to Williams at 9WR.

The other major WR emergence was from a guy that most of us thought was going to be the backup punter. Then in the midst of a 1st half struggle against UL, Hunter Renfrow got us on the board when he ran a perfect slot post and took it to the house. He’d score on the same play against N.C. St. before he’d go into kind of a midseason lull.  He had a momentum changing fumble early on against Syracuse that let them back into the game and he visited the doghouse.  It was in the postseason where Renfrow exploded.  He had 14 catches from the ACCCG on and scored 3 TDs in the playoffs. Don’t let the pigmentation, star rating, and his number fool you.  Renfrow has ultra quick feet and can really explode out of his break.  He’s kind of a glider at full speed, so it looks effortless, but he is both quick and fast.  I expect him to develop juke moves that are going leave a lot of DBs laundry on the field. You already know his hands are money and he is a willing blocker.

At 2WR, entering his 3rd year as a starter is Artavis Scott. Scott is a known playmaker with the ball in his hands. He is a tackle breaker and it often takes more than one defender to bring him down.  With all of the screens and jet sweeps he catches, it wouldn’t surprise me if he led the team in receptions. He still elects to make a basket catch on every throw his way and that limits his production downfield.

The “other 5-star” WR Clemson signed in 2015 was Ray Ray McCloud. I wouldn’t label McCloud a disappointment but, he didn’t have the impact that Deon Cain did last year. McCloud’s athleticism was “as advertised” but his understanding of the WR position was behind guys like Hunter Renrow and Germone Hopper.  A knee injury against FSU largely derailed any chance of him making the same leap that Cain did.  In the spring game this year, Ray Ray was electric. He scored a long TD on a double move and made a memorable grab on a 50/50 ball. He looked ready for primetime and may have been the best WR on the field in the game.

Trevion Thompson had one of the catches of the year last year against South Carolina and is another proven option at WR.  Thompson is versatile and profiles more as a 9WR but he is listed as a 5WR post-spring.  He should see some time at both positions this season.  Thompson has the ability to make plays but then also has shown the propensity for drops.  He is probably the most proficient blocker on the edge that we have, now that Peake has graduated.

Shadell Bell surprised me athletically in the spring game. That game was our first look at him since his senior year in HS two years ago.  I’m glad we signed him, if for no other reason, that we don’t have to play against him. His height and agility would give our DBs some problems.  Bell is also a solid blocker on the edge. Right now, he just needs reps (which he probably won’t get). Bell is probably a natural 9WR but, like Thompson, he has the ability to play 5 as well. I think that with what Bell displayed this spring, there is no need to play Diondre Overton this year unless he goes total gangbusters in fall camp.

In keeping with the WR U theme, the guy with the best hands on the team, Seth Ryan, is probably a 4th string WR for us.  Adrian Dunn is not afraid to get hit and showed that he can catch the ball in traffic.  Very limited playing time for him though.  Ditto Perry Tuttle’s son, Kanyon Tuttle. I think Tuttle may play more just because of his lineage and who our head coach happens to be. He might get the Daniel Rodriguez treatment during his career here.

There are two freshmen WRs that are coming in that I think can play.  Cornell Powell is 2WR that looks like he could blossom into an Anquan Boldin type guy.  You’ve already seen me gush over T.J. Chase.  Chase is seasoned, fundamentally sound, and is ready to go right out of the box.  He reminds me of Sammy Watkins a good bit, however, he does not appear to have Sammy’s straight line speed or muscularity. I do think he can be effective at all three WR positions and that, as a playcaller, Tony Elliot is going to love his versatility.  I think by midseason, if he grasps the playbook, he should be entrenched in the WR rotation.

The current state of the Wide Receiver Corps is as it has been for about 5 years now. We are loaded.  Last year, the only WR we couldn’t afford to lose was Mike Williams.  Now, we can even lose him.  We go 3 deep with guys who are athletically gifted at the position and we have 3 more 4-star recruits coming in this fall. Technically, we return 4 starters for 3 positions. My grade has to be an A.

Kraken Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp

9WR-Mike Williams, 5WR- Hunter Renfrow, 2WR-Artavis Scott

9WR-Deon Cain, 5-WR T.J. Chase*, 2WR- Ray Ray McCloud

9WR Trevion Thompson, 5WR Shadell Bell, 2WR Cornell Powell*

9WR-Seth Ryan, 5WR-Kanyon Tuttle, 2WR Adrien Dunn

*True Freshman

Early Look at 2017:  It’s hard to believe that we don’t have a Senior WR on the roster right now.  All of these guys could be back for 2017, but the smart money is on Mike Williams and possibly Artavis Scott foregoing their last year of eligibility.  The NFL is not going to like Scott’s basket catches, but they will love his toughness and ability to do damage after the catch.  It will be interesting to see what the advisory board tells him.  Assuming both are gone, Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud would get the first opportunity to win the starting job.  Could T.J. Chase or Cornell Powell challenge for one of those starting spots?  Who wins the battle for the 9WR backup slot between Thompson and Overton? No matter what happens, it would seem that the WR U moniker is not going away anytime soon.

Recent Comments

  • The Kraken on Some Thoughts on RecruitingI appreciate your comments and thank you and happy holidays to you as well.
  • Wrw311 on Some Thoughts on RecruitingFor what its worth, its not just one site. Poor Paul Strelow and Cris Ard on Rivals fight this on...
  • philosotiger on Some Thoughts on Recruitinghaha, good to know. That joke just flew right over my head. But then I very rarely eat out.
  • KurtlikeVonnegut on Some Thoughts on RecruitingI think Rockdale is *trying* to be funny. Shane's Rib Shack is a crappy chain. I did start said discussion...
  • philosotiger on Some Thoughts on RecruitingI don't know what that is. Is that a place local to Clemson/Central? I went to the Smoking Pig last...