Clemson has become known as “Wide Receiver U” over the last decade under former wide receivers coach Jeff Scott. With Scott, the head coach at South Florida, a former member of “WRU” is now at the helm and has a lot of work to do in 2020.
There is no question that Clemson football may have the most talented wide receiver room in the country entering 2020, however, they also will have the most to prove. The most coveted high school wide receivers are flocking to Clemson at a rate never seen before, but for the first time in several years, there are a lot of questions about the production coming back.
Justyn Ross lit the college football world on fire in the 2018 College Football Playoffs, lighting up Notre Dame and Alabama for a combined 12 catches, 301 yards, and three touchdowns. Nearly one-third of his total yards came in those two games.
Expectations for Ross in 2019 were huge and he had a sophomore slump. In 2019, Ross caught 66 balls for 865 yards and just eight touchdowns. Sure, the numbers aren’t bad, but anyone who watched Clemson in 2019 saw Ross struggle at times to run clean routes, high point the ball or just make basic catches.
In 2019, Clemson quarterbacks threw for 4,025 total yards, running backs Travis Etienne, Lyn-J Dixon and Darien Rencher accounted for 579 of those receiving yards. Of the 3,446 yards that were caught by receivers and tight ends, 1,711 have left the roster via transfer, graduation or NFL draft.
That leaves a big hole in production to fill in 2020 for a relatively young group that will have enormous expectations.
Second-year receivers Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson Jr. failed to see the field consistently despite all of the encouraging praise heaped upon them by Coach Swinney and the staff. Those two are going to have major roles in 2020 and will need to step up to the plate in big moments for this team to be successful. Both Ladson and Ngata caught three touchdowns and averaged more than 14 yards per catch but found their snaps to be limited.
The 2020 incoming freshman class consists of E.J. Williams and Ajou Ajou who are expected to push for playing time early. Williams out of Phenix City, AL is among the Top 15 receivers in the country while Ajou is a relative newcomer to the sport but had offers from every major program in the country.
First-year receivers coach Tyler Grisham is going to have his hands full trying to not only replace the production loss of Tee Higgins and leadership of Diondre Overton but make sure that Ngata, Ladson Jr, Williams, and Ajou are ready to compete and contribute on a day to day basis.
Amari Rodgers is going to be the leader of this group and while he lacks the size and flash that the others in the group have, he has become Mr. Reliable and seems to come up with big plays when the offense really needs him to.
Rodgers Senior leadership will be imperative to this group as they look to meet the lofty expectations that the offense is going to carry with them in 2020. There is a ton of talent among the 2020 Clemson wide receiving group, but also a lot of questions that will need to be answered over the next eight months.