The Tiger next man up mentality will once again be put to a test in 2020 (Photo by Getty Images)
On Monday it was announced that WR Justyn Ross is having surgery for a congenital fusion on Friday, and will be sidelined for at least the 2020 season. Dabo Swinney’s “Next Man Up” Philosophy will once again be tested in a huge way this season.
Going into next season the only real experienced players coming back were Ross and Amari Rodgers.There is talent behind them, it just isn’t battle tested, so to speak.
Joseph Nagata and Frank Ladson Jr are both entering their second seasons after getting their feet wet as freshmen. The two combined for 27 catches last season, and both were going to be big parts of the offense even before the injury to Ross.
There is also freshman E.J. Williams, who was an early enrollee and took part in the shortened spring practice. Ross’ injury might have as much impact on Williams as anyone. With a healthy Ross you can bring him along at your own pace. Without him, it is possible that is no longer the case.
The wild card here is Cornell Powell. It has never been a question of ability with Powell, he just has never been able to put it all together the way many envisioned when he signed as the 36th best player in the country (Rivals) back in 2016. Coaches raved about Powell during spring, and now is the time.
Losing Ross is a huge blow to Clemson’s season and run at another national title. Think back to 2015 when Clemson lost Mike Williams in the season opener.
That isn’t to say it can’t be overcome, because there is certainly enough talent on this roster to make up for the loss. However, it is never ideal to lose the alpha dog of your receiver room, and that is what has happened here.
Either way you look at it the underclassmen are going to have to step up this season, and in a big way, if the Tigers have any shot at another at accomplishing their goals. Everyone knows one of those includes winning another title.
Clemson fans are just hoping that Ross will recover fully and be back on the football field in 2021. Either in the NFL, or helping break in a new quarterback at Clemson during his senior season.