CLEMSON—The Clemson Tigers may have one of the deepest and most talented receiver corps in school history as they enter the 2021 season.
The biggest reason that so many accolades have been heaped on the unit is, in part, due to the fact they return arguably the best wide receiver in the nation—Justyn Ross.
Ross missed the 2020 season after surgery following the diagnosis of a congenital fusion in his spine. Ross participated in spring ball in a non-contact capacity with an eye toward full participation in fall camp, a plan that was successful in current NFL receiver and former Clemson star Mike Williams’ return from a neck injury in 2016 en route to becoming the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Even though he missed the entire 2020 campaign, Ross still enters 2021 tied for 10th in career touchdown receptions in Clemson history.
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But even though his return means a production boost and a proven downfield threat, Ross' effect on the wide receiver room has not only been on the field.
"Leadership has been critical. He encourages other guys to come into their own," offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. "I think that was the biggest thing that changed— when they saw him running around, they knew, 'OK our alpha dog, our leader is back.' That creates a situation where now guys are going to try to challenge that alpha dog. Before that, nobody had ready established themselves as the guy. It's upped the intensity level. They walk around with more confidence because they know who their leader is. It challenges them to challenge him, and it brings everybody up to another level."
Ross' ability to "bring everybody up" another level means that the Tigers have more weapons they can shake a stick at.
"Frank Ladson has had a really good camp," Elliott said. "Ngata is starting to come on, you're starting to see what we thought we had in Joe. Ajou Ajou is a guy we talk about a lot. Sometimes you put on the tape, and you're like, 'Wow that was Ajou.' The details and nuances are starting to emerge."You kind of take E.J. Williams for granted. He's been a puddy guy for us, we've moved him around and he's handled that well. He's a physical guy too, that's what I like about E.J. He'll put his nose in there on the outside. He's a guy that's going to be a given."
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