|by Nikki Steele|
The redshirt freshman out of Charlotte (NC) Berry Academy arrived at Clemson as the No. 13 wide receiver in the nation according to ESPN, after rushing for over 4,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on his way to becoming the school’s career leader in rushing yards, punt return yards, and kickoff return yards.
However, playing for offensive coordinator Chad Morris and gaining his trust is a challenge on a whole new level.
Hopper told the media during the first interview session of his Clemson career that the coaches aren’t oblivious to his talent, but they are waiting him focus on every aspect of the game.
“That’s really been the hardest part, because Coach [Dabo] Swinney and all of the coaches told me that I have as much talent as anyone that they’ve seen,” Hopper said Tuesday. “I just have to work on the small things and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.”
Coming out of spring practice, Hopper knew that he would need to buckle down over the summer if he wanted the chance to compete in the fall.
“Coming out of spring, he [Morris] told me that he didn’t trust me so I knew that I had to have a really good summer, being that I had to try really hard and then going into fall camp I had focus and mature a lot because I knew that I was going to be a critical part in this offense,” Hopper said. “That’s basically what I focused on all summer and all fall.”
The coaches have questioned Hopper’s ability to secure the ball, but he said that no one should ever question his toughness or effort.
“Saturday, I just tried to play as physical as I could,” Hopper said. “Coach told me that wide receiver is supposed to be the most physical position on the field being that we don’t weigh that much and we have to set a standard in how we block. I bring a lot of effort. I try to go as hard as I can every play. Before you rub that rock, you have to give 110-percent and that’s what I try to give.”
When Hopper finally saw the field against South Carolina State, he made the most of his opportunity by scoring a touchdown on his first career catch and hopefully answering any questions that the coaches still had.
However, Hopper hopes to see the field a lot more in the future to show Clemson fans what they’ve been waiting to see- his quickness and elusiveness.
“Quickness and getting the ball in open space,” Hopper said. “The faster I can get the ball and get in open space the more I can make the defense miss. It’s hard to tackle me. I at least try to make one person miss and gain positive yards.”
Nikki Steele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org