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E.J. Williams Can 'Fly'; Swinney Wants Competition

Through the first four practices of the 2020 spring session, it is another true freshman that has caught Swinney's eye — Phenix City, Alabama native E.J. Williams.

CLEMSON — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been around some special wide receivers during his tenure with the Tigers.

Clemson has sent Chansi Stuckey (2007), Jacoby Ford (2010), DeAndre Hopkins (2013), Martavis Bryant (2014), Sammy Watkins (2014), Charone Peake (2016), Mike Williams (2017), Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud (2018). 

The Tigers will also send Tee Higgins to the NFL when the 2020 NFL Draft comes, and will, very likely send, rising junior Justyn Ross to the NFL next year.

But for Swinney, the special talent that the Tigers have been able to amass is not anywhere close to over. Last season, they brought in Frank Ladson Jr. and Joe Ngata, both of whom were highly-ranked prospects out of high school.

But through the first four practices of the 2020 spring session, it is another true freshman that has caught Swinney's eye — Phenix City, Alabama native E.J. Williams.

"Yeah, he's a faster Ross, you know? He can fly," Swinney said. "He reminds me of Justyn in how he as a great ability to cut on a dime and change direction. He's got unbelievable top-end speed. Ross can run, but E.J. is on another level. He's going to have to progress just the way Frank Ladson has."

Ladson has emerged as the heir apparent to the spot vacated by Higgins, running with the first team offense.

"Frank Ladson, it's unbelievable," Swinney said. "I haven't seen a guy run like him in here since Martavis Bryant. He can run. Now he's just changed his body, he's gotten strong, it's fun to watch that transformation take place. I'm really excited about the speed we have in those two guys (Williams and Ladson) for sure."

While Swinney is excited about Ladson and Williams, he would be remiss if he left out some of the veteran guys, who are also vying for an increased role on the field. The biggest thing that will earn a receiver playing time is to show they are versatile and able to be used in more than one spot on the field.

Learning who is able to do that is a focus of the Tigers this spring.

"Biggest thing is cross-training those guys," Swinney said. "Ross has played the 2 and the 9. He will start out at the 9, but he'll also play the field some, and we'll play him in the slot — we did the same thing with Tee. Amari is back at the 5. No brace. All gas and no brace. 

"At our 2-man spot, we'll kind of rotate guys. Give everybody an opportunity to compete. Cornell is going to bounce around. Same things with Spector, he's a guy that I think can play all three as we get going ... Really excited about Spector, I think he's going to be a great player. Frank and Joe will both work 2 and 9."

The amount of depth the Tigers have at the wide receiver spot means that someone will be happy when the depth chart and, undoubtedly, someone will be upset. But Swinney believes that it is that kind of functional depth that proves his Tigers have a chance to be special.

"Somebody is going to run out there first, and I hope it's hard to figure out who it is every week. That's when you know you have a chance to be special and be great," Swinney said. "As far as who's running out there first, shoot we got a long way before we decide that."