UPDATED: Ajou Ajou entered the transfer portal and will not return to Clemson in 2022.
The Clemson football program has prided themselves on their wide receivers, even being called Wide Receiver U by some. The 2021 season, though, would not be one they would want to be graded on.
Whether it was because of the up and down play of quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, injuries that devastated the group, or just not gelling, this position did not live up to the standard that head coach Dabo Swinney set going into the season. Swinney on multiple occasions speculated that it would be his best wide receiver room ever, and it was far from it.
Many were excited to see what Justyn Ross would bring to the table after a year off. Coming off of major surgery, there were probably higher expectations than there should have been. He showed everyone that he could come back to the game he loves, but had up and down moments. One of those came in the season opener that led to a pick six and the game winning score by Georgia. All of the receivers, at times, seemed to be on a different page than the quarterback.
One of the biggest disappointments though, was the play, or lack thereof, by one of the young guys that Swinney had been very high on going into the season. That would be sophomore Ajou Ajou. What looked like a very promising season quickly turned into very little playing time and big time questions about his role going forward with the team.
Another disappointment was Frank Ladson Jr, who has been plagued with injuries since becoming a Tiger. They had hoped for a better outcome in 2021 but this season was no different. The latest shock from Ladson came when he announced his decision to enter the transfer portal.
Later in the season some of the younger receivers started to really come on, notably the two Collins’. Going forward it will be interesting to see if they can build on that. That will be even more important now with Ross leaving to follow his dream of playing at the next level, Ladson deciding to take his talents elsewhere, and the unknowns surrounding Ajou.
2022 Wide Receivers
E.J. Williams: Came into this season with many expecting him to have a break out year, but he, like the many other Clemson players, had injuries hamper that. He will look to get past that and hope to have a breakout season in 2022.
Brannon Spector: Spector was thought to be the guy that would fill the slot. However, Covid kept him out all season, forcing Ross to move inside.
Joseph Ngata: This young man also has battled through his share of injuries and will enter 2022 as the old guy on the block as far as receivers go. Ngata just hasn’t lived up to expectations and will have one more season to do so.
Will Taylor: Played quarterback as a freshman but is expected to move to receiver in 2022. Many are high on his abilities and how they will translate into a pass catching role. Some have said he is a faster version of Hunter Renfrow.
Beaux Collins: Collins really started to find his groove over the second half of the season. He became the first true freshman since Justyn Ross recorded 153 yards against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game to end the 2018 season to have a 100-yard receiving game. He also became the first Clemson true freshman with a touchdown catch in consecutive games since Ross accomplished that at the end of 2018 and was the first true freshman to catch a touchdown in three straight games since Deon Cain back in 2015. To say the sky is the limit may end up being a huge understatement.
Dacari Collins: This is another young man that it appears that the sky is the limit. He showed flashes of just how great he can be including having a team-high 50 yards on two catches at South Carolina. He also had a breakout performance vs. UConn, collecting six catches for 97 yards. He’s fast, long, and athletic and after another season in the strength program, Collins could be a huge part of the offense in 2022.
Troy Stellato: Most expected for Stellato to see the field more this season. However, an injury in fall camp had him miss most of install and with him not enrolling early it set him back and he would up redshirting. He is a true slot receiver, something the Tigers sorely missed in 2021. However, he is capable of playing outside as well.
2022 Commits: This is another group on Clemson’s roster where they generally reload and are poised to do that again in 2022 with the commitment of Dutch Fork’s Antonio Williams and Myrtle Beach’s Adam Randall.
As far as roster management goes, the Tigers seem to be set at wide receiver. As it stands today, Clemson will head into the 2022 season full at the position.
The biggest question as of right now appears to be who is coaching the group. There has been a lot of coaching turnover inside the program and the dust is far from settled.
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