A standard has been set when it comes to wide receiver play at Clemson. The bar is high. It was not met last season.
The 2021 season began with Clemson fans excited about the much anticipated return of Justyn Ross. That, along with the addition of Beaux Collins and returning players like Joseph Ngata, Frank Ladson Jr, and EJ Williams gave hope that this team would be in a spot to continue their streaks of winning the ACC and making the playoff.
After missing the entire 2020 season due to a career threatening neck injury that required surgery to correct, Ross came back and led the Tigers in receptions, receiving yards, and tied for the most receiving TDs. Sadly though, it was also his worst statistical year overall.
One thing that the plagued the Clemson receivers throughout the 2021 season was drops. Even Ross had his fair share and what made it worse was that the drops seemed to come at the most inopportune times.
Just like the rest of the team, another thing that plagued this position group was injuries. Ross missed the last three games of the season due to an injury. He wasn’t ever100%. Ngata only played in nine games, missing the final three. Williams had multiple injuries, severely limiting him. It was so bad that Will Swinney, who is more known for his holding abilities, was pressed into action at wide receiver.
If more proof is needed of just how down of a year it was for this group take into account that Ross’s 514 receiving yards was the lowest for a season leading receiver at Clemson since Kenya Crooks led the Tigers with 444 all the way back during the 1996 season.
One of the most disappointing players in this group would be Ajou Ajou. To say he had a very rough year would be putting it mildly. Not only did he, like the other receivers, have issues with dropped balls but also looked like he was lost on plays trying to figure out who to block and what routes to run.
Another receiver battling for that top spot with Ajou was Frank Ladson who had just four receptions in another injury plagued season. He still hasn’t lived up to his lofty recruiting ranking.
The receivers were not helped out by DJ Uiagalelei, who had accuracy issues all season. But drops, along with issues getting open, made it even harder than it had to be.
Ross is taking his talents to try in the NFL, while Ajou and Ladson have transferred out. With that being said, the things that could really help this group get back to the level that everyone has been accustomed to would be healthy seasons from Brannon Spector and Troy Stellato in the slot, healthy seasons by Ngata and Williams, and the fact that both Collins (Beaux and Dacari) got valuable experience that should help them be ready to contribute more moving into 2022. Also keep in mind that Adam Randall and Antonio Williams are great recruits who will be able come in and help out with depth.
2021 Season Grade: D
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