|by David Hood|
Hopper never turned around on the play, and by all rights Boyd should never have thrown the pass, but the Clemson defense stepped in and saved the day and made for a more enjoyable offseason around Clemson.
“I guess we weren’t on the same page,” Hopper said recently, a big smile crossing his face. “I was supposed to stop and he wanted me to keep going I guess. But we won the game, and that is all that matters I guess. I’m just glad Tajh and I didn’t have to answer the questions like, “Is that why we lost the game?’ I am just glad we won.”
Hopper has quickly put the play and 2013 to rest, and is now looking forward to making more of an impact for a 2014 offense that will be breaking in a new quarterback, new running backs and new receivers.
Hopper caught just 23 passes a year ago, but still averaged 18.6 yards a catch. With veteran Charone Peake still recovering from a torn ACL suffered early last season, Hopper enters the spring as the second-leading receiver in camp, behind Adam Humphries. He has been practicing at the “5” or slot receiver position after backing up Watkins at the outside or “2” spot last year.
This is a moment that he says he has been waiting for.
"I've been waiting for this moment and I know I need to take full advantage of it," he said. "I want to show everybody that I am capable of getting the job done now that those guys are gone. I want to step up and keep things the same way they've been and show that there's no letdown."
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said that while it took Hopper a few practices to find his groove this spring, Hopper was “electric” in last Wednesday’s practice.
“I feel like I'm playing faster. Definitely. And part of that was just getting things down, getting the offense down pat," Hopper said. "I wasn't always sure about some plays last year. Now I've got it. When you've got it, it allows you to just go out and play faster."
Hopper was asked what he needed to work on this spring, and he said making plays without the ball, including blocking.
“I'm a smaller guy for a receiver, so I've got to improve there. I've got to keep my hands inside and block as hard and as effective as I can,” he said. "Basically, I've just got to be a better player and make plays whenever my number is called. I feel like I've come a long way since I've been here, but I know I've got to step up."
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org