Clemson Football: Wide receiver depth in spring is a concern

Mar 6, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson receiver Noble Johnson (3) during the first day of spring practice at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2023; Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson receiver Noble Johnson (3) during the first day of spring practice at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports /

Clemson Football had a lot of players miss time during spring practices in 2022. Some were known ahead of time and others happened during practice. The absences made it difficult to assess progress, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

There is still a notable list of players who will miss 2023 spring practice or will be very limited, but the situation isn’t quite as dire. Several of the players who will miss time are veterans. While it would be beneficial for them to participate (especially on offense with a new coordinator), the impact will be minimized.

There also aren’t as many position groups decimated this spring, as the running backs, tight ends and cornerbacks in 2022.

The lone exception will be the wide receivers. Unfortunately, this is the group that could likely benefit the most from a solid spring.

When I read Will Vandervort’s summary for, I was excited at first because he listed four first-teamers for the wide receivers, which have always had three first-teamers in the past.

Then I realized the starters were Antonio Williams, Brannon Spector, Cole Turner, and Troy Stellato, and the lack of depth in this group this spring stood out.

Beaux Collins had shoulder surgery and will be limited this spring. Adam Randall, who missed much of last spring with an ACL injury, will be limited following a scope of his other knee. Will Turner will be playing baseball and won’t participate. Stellato himself is still recovering from his ACL injury, and it is unknown if he will be allowed to participate in contact drills, scrimmages, or the Spring Game.

After reviewing availability, it becomes clear that to field a first-string for each team that is four players deep, true freshman Noble Johnson and several walk-ons like Hamp Greene and Clay Swinney will be starting in the Spring Game.

This isn’t just a disappointment for the wide receiver group’s sake, but for new starting quarterback Cade Klubnik as well. It was difficult for Klubnik to make a lot of progress last spring because the majority of the skill players he would be working with in the fall weren’t available. Both offenses in the Spring Game were very limited.

Clemson Football is in a better place with injuries in Spring 2023, but receiver depth is still a concern

While the top running backs and tight ends will be playing this spring, Klubnik and the other quarterbacks will be forced to make real progress in a new offensive system with receivers that aren’t likely to see a lot of playing time unless the Tigers are once again decimated by injuries.

Coach Dabo Swinney will make lemonade out of lemons and point out that it is a positive that young players like Johnson and walk-ons get experience now just in case they are called upon in an emergency next fall. It is possible someone might stand out and excel in Garrett Riley’s offense that we didn’t expect, which could be a benefit in the long-run.

The stark reality is that the lack of depth in the wide receiver group this spring will put the team in a difficult position this fall.  There are already questions about which receivers will step up and contribute in 2023. With only Williams participating fully this spring, the process of figuring out their best line-up will likely bleed into the regular season, which is not ideal for the Tigers.

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