Wide Receivers Stepping Up

CLEMSON – As most of the attention on offense centers around the quarterback battle, the growth and development of the wide receivers has gone largely unnoticed.

But make no mistake, they deserve plenty notoriety, especially Aaron Kelly and Jacoby Ford.

One constant this spring has been the constant praise of Kelly by Tigers head coach Tommy Bowden. The 6-foot-5 rising redshirt junior has been putting on a show everyday in practice. He's catching everything that comes his way, no matter how difficult the situation.

"Aaron Kelly has been the best guy out there," receivers coach Dabo Swinney said. "I mean, he has been fantastic. And we need him to be."

And while Kelly continues to be the anchor of the receivers, the speedster Ford is quietly turning into a very solid receiver.

The 5-9 rising sophomore is showing himself to the coaching staff as someone who will be able to amply fill the void left by Chansi Stuckey.

"Jacoby is showing that he can be special," Swinney said. "Last year, he didn't look fast until he got the ball. That's the thing, when you're fast, you've got to look fast. But he looked slow without the ball. But that's not being sure and understanding coverages."

If Ford can have a breakthrough season, the danger of the Clemson offense will increase twofold.

His speed is legendary, but it's no good if you have a hard time catching the ball and getting open, two problems that plagued Ford last season.

"The game has really slowed down for him. He has a much better grasp of the overall scheme of the offense," Swinney said. "His confidence is way up, so he's playing faster. He's showing that he can be really, really special.

"He had decent hands, but that was one of his areas from the time he got here that he really, really needed to work on – his ball skills. It was just a matter of working on it. Working on catching the ball is just repetition and repetition and repetition and repetition."

Following practice Wednesday night, Bowden also gave praise to his track star.

"Jacoby is going to be a heck of a player," he said. "He is a tough guy that has running skills. He is catching the ball better and better. He has always caught it pretty good. I'm really pleased with Jacoby. I really am."

QUICK HITS: Bowden said that defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson was "unblockable" Wednesday. He said maybe other centers can block him, but those with the Tigers couldn't. … Tailback James Davis broke free for a 60- to 70-yard touchdown run. … Bowden said that cornerback Byron Maxwell intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it the other way for a touchdown. …

Offensive Brandon Pilgrim is out for the remainder of the spring with a dislocated elbow. … Durrell Barry has a slipped disk in his back, but the coaches are hopeful he will be able to practice Friday and/or Saturday. … Dorrel Scott sustained a concussion in practice and was held out the rest of the day.

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