Clemson Football: WRs need to learn to create separation

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 28: Justyn Ross #8 of the Clemson Tigers attempts to catch a pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 28: Justyn Ross #8 of the Clemson Tigers attempts to catch a pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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The Clemson football wide receiver core needs to focus on working to create separation and space during spring practice sessions.

There’s plenty of talent returning in the wide receiver room for Clemson football as we head into the 2020 season.

The Tigers lose WR Tee Higgins (NFL Draft) and T.J. Chase (transfer), but return everyone else while also adding talented freshmen E.J. Williams (early enrollee) and Ajou Ajou (summer enrollee) to the mix.

As we started looking back at film from the 2019 Clemson football season, we began to notice a common trend in many cases with the offense.

All too often, Trevor Lawrence was fitting the ball into tight windows and relying on his wide receivers to catch 50/50 balls. There’s nothing with the fade-route to the sideline or the quick underneath option, but it seemed there were too many times where those were the only passes the Clemson football offense focused on.

For whatever reason, the Tigers had an open middle of the field and didn’t take advantage. Honestly, this cost them against LSU and even, to a point, against Ohio State.

As the 2020 Clemson football team continues through spring practice, one area I’d personally like to see the Tiger WRs improve is in creating separation.

Creating separation doesn’t mean that you have to blow past the defender and have a 5-yard gap between you and the defensive back. Instead, it’s what guys like Henry Ruggs III or Jerry Jeudy did best. It’s what Hunter Renfrow found a way to do.

As a wide receiver, you’ve got to use exceptional footwork and footspeed to find an opening in the defense. If that means you get behind the defense, awesome. If it means you sit down in coverage or find a hole over the middle, that’s okay too. It’s about finding ways to separate yourself from the defense.

How many routes over the middle do you remember being batted up or being thrown into extremely tight widows last season? The answer is quite a few.

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A lot of that has to do with wide receivers finding ways to create separation. Guys like Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins and Frank Ladson Jr. have already proven they are capable of doing just that, but it’s all about taking that next step.