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2016 Clemson Football Review: Wide Receivers

Clemson showed once again why it is the premier program for developing wide receivers.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Most of us here at STS, myself included, hoped and expected that this season’s wide receiving corp would rewrite record books. While the receiving corp didn’t quite live up that lofty billing, the unit still showed why it was the best in the nation. There was some inconsistency throughout the unit and at times, at least in my opinion, it was held back by play-calling. The backups also suffered from situations in the blowouts when the coaches decided to run the clock out rather than get the young receivers involved. The receivers came up in some of the biggest moments of the season, whether it was against Auburn, Louisville, Florida State, or Alabama. In the absolute biggest moment of the season, the fourth quarter of the national championship game, the Clemson wide receivers dominated an Alabama defense that was hailed as historic. So even though the wide receivers did not live up to the lofty preseason billing, they still had a highly successful season. They saved their best performance for the end of the season and brought a national title back to Clemson.

Mike Williams (RS Junior), 98 catches, 1361 yards, 11 TD, 13.9 AVG

The return of 7 did not disappoint. Despite a couple of fumble problems here and there, Mike Williams showed throughout the season why he was the best wide receiver in the country. The fact that he didn’t he even make the semifinalist list for the Biletnikoff is a travesty. Whether it was 175 yards against Auburn in his first game back from his injury, 202 yards against Pitt (and really it could have easily been 300), his absolute destruction of South Carolina, or his memorable performance against Alabama, Williams was almost uncoverable. Williams’s size and physicality on jump balls were impossible for college defensive backs to deal with and those traits will earn him quite a bit of money when it comes time for the NFL Draft. Clemson has the talent (Cain, OVerton, Higgins) to replace Williams’s production but his departure to the NFL will be felt, especially early on in the season.

Artavis Scott (Junior), 76 catches, 614 yards, 5 TD, 8.1 AVG

It might be petty of me to have some disappointments in a season where Clemson won a national title but, hey, it is what it is. This season I was a bit disappointed with Artavis Scott’s production. However, that was no fault of his own. Quite a few opponents focused on taking away Clemson’s screen game and the jet toss to the motion man. Also, some guys will get lost in the shuffle when you have so many weapons on offense and only one ball. Artavis did have some big moments throughout the season. His long kick return against Louisville helped to save that game, and the season. Scott also set the school record for career receptions and became the first junior to ever play in the Senior Bowl. Artavis was a hell of a player for Clemson. He was a bulldog with the ball in his hands and reminded me of Steve Smith on the field. Scott also selflessly offered to cover punts when he knew the team needed help there. Lastly, and most importantly, Scott was able to graduate in just three years. With his toughness, willingness to play special teams, and overall character, Artavis should have a long and productive NFL career.

Hunter Renfrow (RS Sophomore) 44 catches, 495 yards, 6 TD, 11.3 AVG

Hunter Renfrow provided not only one of the greatest moments in my personal fandom but arguably the greatest moment in the history of Clemson football. At first glance, even with pads on, Renfrow doesn’t look like he should be playing football for a Power Five team but this kid can ball. He dominated Alabama’s secondary again and has 5 career playoff touchdowns. He also had key acrobatic touchdowns against Auburn and Troy. Renfrow actually broke his hand against Troy and he missed 4 games. Hunter Renfrow proved his reliability for the Clemson offense and he will continue to be an important piece moving forward despite all of the other talent around him.

Trevion Thompson (RS Sophomore) 11 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD, 9.8 AVG

Trevion Thompson was one guy who was lost in the shuffle this year. He just wasn’t able to get many targets when he rotated into games this season. He unfortunately broke his wrist when he threw a key block for Deshaun Watson in the ACC title game. This offseason will be key for Thompson; if he doesn’t make some moves he could be a prime transfer target.

Deon Cain (Sophomore) 38 catches, 724 yards, 9 TD, 19.1 AVG

Deon Cain, like Mike Williams, had a major comeback season. He worked his way out of the dog house this offseason and earned the trust of the coaches again. Cain was a great deep threat for the Tigers this season and had some long touchdown receptions. He also had key receptions against Florida State and Alabama when the Tigers were backed up deep and needed a spark. Cain needs to improve on his consistency going forward (he was absent against Auburn, Georgia Tech, and NC State) but he will be a huge part of Clemson’s offense moving forward into next season. Deon showed how dangerous he can be as a backup. I’m excited to see him develop with an offseason solely dedicated to playing football.

Ray-Ray McCloud (Sophomore) 49 catches, 472 yards, 2 TD, 9.6 AVG

Ray-Ray is an enigma. There are times when he looks like the most electric player on the field, such as the Georgia Tech game when he had 118 total yards on only 9 touches. But there are also quite a few games where he completely disappears, or when he causes a pick, such as the opening drive in the 3rd quarter of the Louisville game. I think part of that is due to confidence. The fumble he had against Troy impacted his return abilities all season and I think it hurt his confidence the rest of the season too. McCloud also suffered from the same problems as Artavis Scott. Teams specifically schemed to stop Clemson’s screen game. I also think the offensive coaches could have done a better job of coming up with ways to get Ray-Ray the ball. Hopefully he will have a larger role going forward now that he has another year under his belt and that Artavis Scott has graduated.

Cornell Powell (Freshman) 12 catches, 87 yards, 0 TD, 7.2 AVG

Before the season I believed that Powell would see his snap count increase as the year went. However, Powell only really flashed in the Georgia Tech game at the beginning of the year. I was disappointed to not see him get more targets throughout the season. Powell is a talented player but as a freshman he was at the bottom of the pecking order in a very deep receiving corp and he was hurt by the situation (backup quarterback play and end of the game play calling) in some of the blowouts throughout the year. I think Powell can be a pretty good player for Clemson moving forward.

Diondre Overton (Freshman) 2 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD, 24 AVG

Before the seasons I said that Overton needed to be redshirted and I still stand by that. He simply didn’t see enough playing time to justify burning a redshirt. I understand why the staff made the decision to forgo a redshirt with Overton; he is 6’5 and he is an important jump ball threat going forward, especially now that Mike Williams is gone. The staff wanted to get him experience. But Overton suffered from similar situations that Powell did. He was a freshman at the bottom of the pecking order. Hopefully this offseason will be good for Diondre and he can make a push for more playing time next season as the backup to the 9 position.