Post spring insider: WRs (part 3)

CLEMSON — Last year, Jacoby Ford had a personal challenge. He wanted to prove to people that he wasn't a fragile player.

He wanted to prove that he was just as tough as the next guy, despite his 5-foot-10 frame.

Before breaking his foot at Maryland in the eighth game of the season, Ford was on his way to a stellar year in 2007. At that point, he had 17 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns, while making plays on reverses and punt returns as well. Overall, he was averaging 15.7 yards every time he touched the ball.

After sitting out last spring, some questioned whether he would be the same player and would he worry about being injured again. Ford answered both questions in the second game of the season.

After suffering a mild concussion in the season opener to Alabama, Ford came back the next week and took a handoff on the same play in which he broke his foot. On that play, he raced for a first down by diving through tacklers. He finished that game with five catches for 60 yards.

From there, he went on to have his best season as a Tiger, playing in all 13 games and starting eight as he caught a career-best 55 passes for a career-high 710 yards and four touchdowns. All three marks ranked second on the Clemson team.

Now, as he enters his senior season, Ford is at the top of the depth chart at the A-wide receiver spot, and is poised to have another great season as the leader of this year's group of wideouts.

Jacoby Ford (5-foot-10,185, senior, Royal Palm Beach, Fla.)
About: Joins running back C.J. Spiller to give Clemson perhaps the two fastest players on one team in the ACC. Like Spiller, Ford has big play potential every time he touches the ball. He has six-career touchdowns of 50 or more yards, which ranks third in Clemson history all-time. He is the current track and field indoor national champion in the 60-meters. He has 87 career catches for 1,207 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like Spiller, he only participated in non-contact drills this spring.

The positives: He is the fastest guy on the team and the second most explosive player behind Spiller. He is coming off a five-catch, 112-yard effort in the Gator Bowl, including a 46-yard touchdown reception. He also had a 50-yard touchdown catch against South Carolina. His 112 yards against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl was a career-high. He improved his route running last year and has gained 25 pounds since coming to Clemson in 2006.

The negatives: There are not many, but everyone has room to improve. Though he has gotten stronger and has put on more weight, Ford still needs to get stronger, especially if he wants to play on Sundays. He will also have to clean up some of his route running and become a better blocker down field on running plays.

Marquan Jones (5-foot-11, 185, sophomore, Columbia, SC)
About: He was one of the best performers of the spring. He made huge strides and was very consistent in all phases. A reserve wideout in his second year, he should see a lot more playing time. He played in eight games last season as a true freshman. He finished the spring with two catches for 52 yards in the Orange and White game, including a 32-yard pass from Kyle Parker to setup the game's first score. Will also be vying for playing time at the Z-position and could earn the starting spot there.

The positives: Jones added about five pounds of muscle to his frame. Coaches say he comes to work hard every day and battles hard with everyone on the team. He's not Ford or Spiller fast, but he is one of the faster guys on the team and will add a little bit more speed to the offense. He also has good knowledge of the offense.

The negatives: Needs to become more consistent at catching the ball. He has a tendency to drop a few passes from time-to-time. Though he has put on weight and is stronger, he still needs to continue to improve in that area.

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