Clemson has an embarrassment of riches at the WR position. In my opinion, it's the best unit in the nation. The Tigers have 4-5 WRs who could start for any team out there. Here's a closer look at the Clemson wide receiver corps, in depth chart order.
Redshirt graduate Charone Peake was expected to have a breakout season in 2013 thanks to the departure of Nuk Hopkins, but his season ended with an injury in the second game.
Again last season, many thought it would be his year with Watkins and Bryant in the NFL. He was off to a great start with a TD catch against UGA in the opener. However, Peake was injured much of last season as well.
No one doubts Peake's immense talent. He has magnetic hands and blinding speed--in fact, it was reported that Peake was faster than NFL stars Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant when the Tiger wideouts were timed in the 40-yard dash in the past. Yet Peake has been beset by injuries over the past couple of years.
Is 2015--his last season--finally the year in which no bad luck befalls him and he shows the nation what he can do? Let's hope so! If he can, the Clemson offense will be that much more dangerous. Peake is a versatile WR and can be used all over the field.
The preseason All-ACC first teamer has been sensational in his first two campaigns. As a true freshman in 2013, he had 20 receptions and 3 TDs in only 404 snaps, playing behind now NFL sophomore sensations Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant.
Last year as a sophomore, Williams stepped up in their absence. He doubled his production from the year before, recording 57 receptions for 1,030 yards (a team high and school record for a sophomore WR) and 6 TDs. Who could forget the brilliant, diving TD catch he had last season on the pass from Deshaun Watson against NC State? It was acrobatic catches such as that and record-setting numbers that earned him second-team All-ACC honors last season.
Even bigger things are expected of Lucky Seven this season--Williams made first team of the media's preseason All-ACC voting. Williams has the entire package--size, speed and hands. The only question is whether he will be able to put up first team numbers with all the other weapons at Clemson's disposal. Put Williams on the roster of most other ACC teams, and his production would probably nearly double.
The last couple games of the season became the Artavis show. Against South Carolina, the true freshman hauled in 7 receptions for 185 yards and 2 TDs as the Tigers put the Gamecocks back where they belong--in the losing column. He followed up that performance with an encore against Oklahoma in the bowl game. He had 8 catches for 114 yards and a TD in Clemson's dismantling of the Sooners.
On the season, Scott had 76 receptions (team high) for 965 yards and 8 TDs (team high). His numbers earned him a place on the All-ACC second team and Freshman All-American first team. Not only did Scott and Williams occupy the All-ACC second team together, but a couple weeks ago they were both also selected by the media for the preseason All-ACC first team.
Scott was used for kick returns intermittently over the last couple games, and that could portend more of the same this season. Scott has great speed and elusiveness in the open field, which makes him a great candidate to return both kicks and punts.
Redshirt junior Germone Hopper showed significant improvement from his freshman to sophomore year. Last season, he had 27 receptions for 331 yards and 3 TDs--including a spectacular TD catch against Oklahoma--in only 424 snaps.
Hopper showed flashes of brilliance last season but was still inconsistent--dropping easy catches from time to time. Hopefully he will become more reliable in this, his third year.
Hopper will come in to relieve both Peake and Scott, and he figures to be in the mix in the return game. He will not lead the team in stats, but I expect his numbers to increase from last year, and he represents one of many big-play threats for the Tigers.
Redshirt freshman Trevion Thompson, from Durham, was ranked the #15 WR in the nation by Scout. At 6'2, he will provide another big target for Deshaun Watson when he enters the game to give Mike Williams a respite. He is not expected to put up big numbers this season, but if Mike Williams should miss any games (God forbid), Thompson could see more action as Co-Offensive Coordinators Scott and Elliott look to leverage his height.
Clemson fans can't wait to see this 5-star athlete take the field in Death Valley. The USA Today second-team All-American from Tampa is 6'2 and 190 pounds, so he already has the physique of a big-time college wide receiver. Opposing defenses won't know what to think when they see Mike Williams or Charone Peake come out of the game and this future star takes the field. Cain chose Clemson over schools like Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Florida and LSU.
Cain played QB throughout high school--primarily because of his explosiveness running the ball--and he exhibited his versatility in the US Army All-American game, in which he threw a 54-yard TD pass and also caught a 59-yard TD.
Cain is already a prodigious runner out of the backfield, which makes him a great candidate for jet sweeps. He also has the height to make him viable for deep routes and passes over the top. Moreover, his experience as a QB should give the staff some options for trick plays. He will just be another cog in this well-oiled machine that is the best unit and best offense in the nation.
As if Clemson didn't have enough offensive fire power, they will bring in another 5-star athlete from Tampa. McCloud chose Clemson over offers from Ohio State, Oregon, Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Auburn, USC, Notre Dame and just about everyone else.
At 5'10, 175 pounds, Ray-Ray played RB in high school, but the Tigers will utilize his impressive skill set at WR. He will be used in much the same way as Jacoby Ford, Artavis Scott and Germone Hopper. Because his natural position is RB, don't be surprised to see McCloud line up in the backfield or be used on jet sweeps. As with Cain, he will have to wait his turn, but he is too talented to keep off the field for long. As he learns from some of the best and develops his skills at the position, McCloud will be that much more dangerous of a weapon.
You could literally flip a coin on who will lead the team in receptions, yards and TDs between Peake, Williams and Scott. Your guess is as good as mine, but for the point of this exercise I will do my best. I think Scott will lead the team in receptions (but for his propensity for injuries, I would pick Peake), and Williams will lead in yards, yards per catch and TDs. However, I would not be surprised if any combination of these three lead those categories.
I'll say it again. This is the best WR corps in the nation, and I believe it is the best offense in the nation. There is so much speed, talent and versatility all over the field that I don't know how Coaches Scott and Elliott are going to figure out what to do with it--but it should be a lot of fun to watch!
I remember when Urban Meyer was calling the 2011 Clemson vs Auburn game. He said, "This stadium was made for an offense like this." Well, as good as that offense was, I believe this one is even better. If the O-Line is merely average, Clemson will be lighting up the scoreboard. All the speed and weapons combined with Watson's scrambling ability will give defenses nightmares and mitigate any weaknesses in the trenches. And I haven't even touched on the tight ends yet!
Are you ready to see some fireworks, Tiger fans? Practice begins tomorrow! Go Tigers!
Clemson WR Corps: Weapons Galore
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