CLEMSON — Clemson has a star receiver.
Even when he sat out last season when it was discovered he had a congenital fusion in his spine, Justyn Ross still held the title. And throughout this spring when he went through non-contact workouts, his name was still popping up on 2022 NFL draft boards. The anticipation has reached a peak, too. He has an appointment with his doctor in Pittsburgh on Monday, and if everything goes well he will be cleared for fall camp and this season.
But with so much attention on the impact of Ross’ return, the rest of the Tigers wide receiver core has been somewhat forgotten. Joseph Ngata fought off injuries last year, but he’s ready to take a larger role. And Frank Ladson is capable of being a vertical threat. Add in E.J. Williams’ break-out performance in the ACC Championship with the recent additions of Beaux Collins and Dacari Collins and Clemson has plenty of wideouts to spread the ball to.
“That would be the perception, but don’t forget about Joseph Ngata,” offensive coordinator Tony Elliott recently said on Packer and Durham. “We didn’t see him much last year just because of injuries, but he’s that big body that we’re used to seeing into the boundary. Then you’ve got [Frank] Ladson coming back, who is a guy that’s versatile, can play into the boundary, can play out to the field. [Justyn] Ross can play into the boundary, Ross can play slot, Ross can play to the field. And then the emergence of E.J. [Williams]. What you saw him do, especially in the championship game and down the stretch and the postseason. So the perception may be that Ross has to carry the load.”
“We understand where he’s going to be coming back, so we’re not going to put that pressure on him, just let him get back into playing shape as he goes forward. But he has a lot of a supporting cast.”
The supporting cast will be even more helpful this season. While Amari Rodgers and Cornell Powell provided Trevor Lawrence two capable targets, giving D.J. Uiagalelei multiple options can ease him into the starting job. The sophomore started two games last year in Lawrence’s absence, showing his potential. But taking over the entire offense is a major step and having trustworthy wide receivers is a plus.
Everything seems on track for Ross’ recovery, but he hasn’t played a game in more than a year. After a strong fall camp and a few games, he should be back playing at a high level. But the trio of Ladson, Ngata and Williams can make the assimilation back into the starting role easier on Ross.
As Tony Elliott said, the supporting cast in the wide receiver room is able and capable. Justyn Ross is still Clemson’s star wide receiver until proven otherwise, and all is on track for him to be back this fall.
But Clemson will need more than one receiver this fall, and the rest of the other wideouts on the Tigers’ wideout room are ready.