Charone Peake's injury is a disappointing setback for the redshirt junior who missed 11 games last season. Hopefully he will be back at full strength for UGA, but the last thing we want to see is him rushed back. His injury gives us reason to reevaluate the WR depth chart and discuss.
It's not as simple as moving to the next man in the depth chart. It's certainly plausible that receivers could shift around to get the best group on the field most often, but for simplicity's sake, lets follow the depth chart.
1st String: Charone Peake
2nd String: Kyrin Priester or Germone Hopper
"2" (Slot) Receiver
1st String: Adam Humphries
2nd String: Artavis Scott
1st String: Mike Williams
2nd String: Demarre Kitt
Starting with the "5," we have Charone Peake, who tore his ACL in a non-contact drill early last season. Prior to the injury he displayed a great speed/size/toughness combination that hopefully he can reclaim. The Dorman High School graduate is 6'3" and was reporting a 4.40 40-yard dash out of high school. In the 2013 opener versus Georgia, he flashed some strength and determination fighting for a first down while being tackled.
As mentioned in the opening, he re-injured his knee (I assume the same one) on Wednesday, 7/23 and had what the school is calling a "minor knee surgery." He has just over a month to recover and it's certainly possible (we saw Demontez Stitt get his knee scoped and only miss 2-3 games), but he will at minimum lose some practice time in Fall Camp.
Hopefully he is close to 100% both physically and mentally by Labor Day weekend. I don't want to jump to conclusions and imply that he will miss game time (which they say he won't) or that he won't be back to himself. I'm very hopeful he will bounce back from injury, but obviously this setback is a chip on the optimism I had for him.
Moving on to the players behind Peake on the depth chart at that "5" or "Z" receiver, Kyrin Priester graduated from Brookwood high school in Snellville, GA (metro Atlanta). Priester then went to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia and then chose Clemson over offers from UGA, South Carolina, and Ohio State. He is one of the four four-star wide receivers Clemson reeled in with the last class and he may be one who has an opportunity to contribute early.
He has a reported 40 time of 4.55 and a listed height of 6'1". Given the year in prep school and the early enrollment, you'd expect him to be polished enough to earn playing time. I've heard nothing but great things about his athleticism and toughness so hopefully he can be a worthwhile blocker, which isn't always what you see from young receivers.
The other guy behind Peake is Germone Hopper. He was a four-star recruit with a reported sub-4.5 40-yard dash out of Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology in Charlotte, NC. We have discussed Charlotte recruiting at length, and Hopper is the top recruit we've puled from the city over the past six cycles, but unfortunately he hasn't produced as we'd like. He was suspended from last year's BC game and then didn't do much in the succeeding games. As you probably know, he was dismissed from Spring Camp this offseason so he could "get his academic house in order." Hopefully he's done that and will be more focused coming into Fall camp.
In the slot or the "2" position, we still have Adam Humphries who grabbed 41 receptions for 483 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season. He also had 20 punt returns for 212 yards. The senior leader of the WR corps isn't flashy, but provides a reliable target reminiscent of Tyler Grisham. He comes up with key blocks and makes little plays that you may not notice.
Artavis Scott is likely to get some early action as the back-up for Adam Humphries. With Hopper no longer listed as Humphries' back-up, Scott will move into the role and could see the most action among the freshman receivers. He is the fastest of the freshman receivers and has drawn comparisons to Jacoby Ford who is now a teammate of Tajh Boyd on the New York Jets.
Artavis Scott joined Clemson from Oldsmar Florida after picking Clemson over offers from all three major Florida schools, Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State among others. He's super quick, explosive, and a strong route runner. He lined up in the backfield at times in high school so it's possible Clemson will get creative in working the ball to him this season. One simple way would be give him the opportunity to return punts - assuming he proves reliable in the role. Putting a shifty, speedy guy with home run ability in that role instead of Humphries seems like a wise move. That's not what is listed on the depth chart, but I'm holding out hope.
Daniel Rodriguez will be back and looking to make an impact. Because of his height, 5'8", he is largely limited to the slot where he will be behind Humphries and Scott. He should continue to contribute on special teams and in blowouts, which we hope are plentiful. He'll also provide depth in the case of injury.
Looking at the "9" or X receiver, Mike Williams is slated to become the starter this year and slide right into the role Martavis Bryant excelled in during the second half of last season. Williams posted 20 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns in 2013 and early in the year was pushing Bryant for playing time. Mike Williams has plenty of talent - as illustrated by a few of his catches last season and his four-star status out of high school. If we're predicting which receiver will lead Clemson in TD receptions, he may be your best bet.
Next up, we have Demarre Kitt. Jeff Scott and Chad Morris are credited for recruiting Kitt, who chose Clemson over nearly every major program East of the Mississippi. He's listed as the second-string option behind Mike Williams in the "9" role vacated by Martavis Bryant. While Mike Williams may be in for a big season, Kitt should make notable contributions as his back-up. If he is not ready to contribute, he could redshirt rather than burning a year of eligibility, but that seems highly unlikely at this point.
Finally, Trevion Thompson is the last of the four-star wide receivers to discuss. He joins the Clemson family from Durham, North Carolina and chose Clemson over offers from Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, NC State, UNC, Ohio State and a handful of others. He has a reported 4.50 40 out of high school.
Thompson was the only one of the group that didn't join early and with the starting roles already taken by returning players, it makes sense to redshirt Trevion. Because a redshirt can be pulled in case of emergency, it is generally unwise to burn a year of eligibility for a player if they aren't going to get many snaps. It's especially true when they are part of a big WR class (we don't want to lose four wide receivers all in the same year). He is not currently listed on the summer depth chart so I expect this will be the case.
In all, we have some depth and plenty of talent, but a lot of it is on the young side. If Peake is held back for any reason, Mike Williams becomes a major X-factor for the offense and we'll need at least one of the talented young freshman to make major contributions. Hopefully Charone Peake is in good shape by the time the opener rolls around, because we all want to see the young man be very successful, and he certainly has a chance to in our HUNH aerial assault.
I'm excited to see Priester and Scott in action. I don't like to hear comparisons to Sammy's freshman year when talking about expectations. I think it is completely unfair. That said, I do expect one of them to make a splash, albeit smaller than Sammy Watkins' ridiculous freshman campaign. If Peake is healthy or the freshman step up quickly, we should be in good shape at this position. If neither of those happen - an unlikely scenario - we will run into trouble.