|Hopkins, Brown, McNeal and Jones to carry the load against the Heels|
|by David Hood - Senior Writer - Monday, October 4, 2010 5:29 PM||
CLEMSON – Clemson wide receivers coach Jeff Scott confirmed on Monday what head coach Dabo Swinney hinted at on Saturday – the rotation at wide receiver will look a little different on Saturday in Chapel Hill.
The Tigers will take on North Carolina in their second conference game, and seniors Terrance Ashe, Xavier Dye and Brandon Clear will take a backseat as true freshman DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins, sophomore Jaron Brown, redshirt freshman Bryce McNeal and junior Marquan Jones will handle most of the duties against the Heels.
Scott said that last Saturday’s game against Miami – and indeed the body of work leading up to this week – made the decision easy.
“Like we talked about from the beginning of the season, we had eight guys and now with Brandon Ford moving to tight end, we have seven in our room,” Scott said. “We kind of talked that a lot of those guys were going to get opportunities at the beginning of the season and were going to let their play on the field speak for itself, and I think that happened a little bit on Saturday.
“ I think some of the guys that have been around here for a while didn’t make the plays we expected them to make, and when the younger guys went in, I felt like they made some plays and did some good things. I think we are starting to see a little separation, and some of these younger wide outs have earned the opportunity to have a start. So we’ll up their reps this week and go from there.”
Scott was quick to mention, however, that the three seniors will still get chances to prove themselves.
“I think the four guys that are going to get a lot of reps this week will be DeAndre Hopkins, Jaron Brown, Bryce McNeal, and Marquan Jones,” Scott said. “Those are the four guys that, based off of our film study of the games, have performed the best in the first four games, so they’ll get more of the reps. That doesn’t mean the other guys are going to get thrown off a ledge or something. They’re going to continue to practice. Obviously, we have a long year and they’ll get their opportunities. They’ll be fighting back for whenever their opportunities come, and hopefully do a better job than they have the first part.”
There were some obvious drops against the Hurricanes, and Scott said those did play a part in the decision.
“Obviously the drops are glaring. I think Brandon Clear’s was a very clear drop,” Scott said. “And, with Xavier Dye’s, the thing I was most disappointed in was the way he played the ball. I felt like he should’ve come back and attacked the ball a little bit more, as opposed to let the ball come all the way down to his hands. In the video, the defensive back is knocking the ball away while it’s in his hands. When I went back and watched the video, it was not a clear thing of hitting his hands and a drop, but I think he could’ve played the ball a lot better by turning back and attacking the ball like we coach.”
In Clemson’s offense, the wide receivers are required to be physical on their blocks, and Scott said that also had a part in the change.
“Some of those guys have had a lot of opportunities in games- not just throwing and catching, but also playing without the ball and some of those things,” he said. “You have a guy like DeAndre Hopkins who had six decleaters and was very active downfield- just head andshoulders above everyone else blocking downfield, cuts and crack backs. He knocked number 44, the big linebacker, down one time. He plays fearless. I think he deserves the opportunity to play so he’ll get a lot of reps this week in practice and I expect him to do some good things for us Saturday.”
One missed block that was mentioned occurred on the failed fourth-and-one play in the fourth quarter, a failure that loomed large in the Clemson defeat. Clemson running back Andre Ellington was dropped for no gain by defensive back Brandon Harris, and it was a wide receiver who failed to seal the play off.
“First of all, the guy travelling with Terrance came around and actually made the play- he made a great play,” Scott said. “We never would’ve thought that the guy travelling would be able to make the play. Terrence did get his feet caught together and didn’t have a great base. Because he got contact with his feet together, the guy knocked him back. Definitely something that could’ve helped the play would be to set the point like we coach. He had been the best guy doing that in past, but didn’t get it done when it mattered.”
Hopkins’ ability to block so well is because he has a defensive mentality, according to Scott.
“Because he played defense, we knew that he had a defensive personality because he enjoys contact. He goes out and looks for contact,” Scott said. “That’s something we knew coming in, that he was a wide receiver with a defensive mentality. He’s had to learn when you can go cut guys and when you can’t, when you can come back for decleaters and when you have to stay back and the rules and the flow of the play because he wants to go after them every play. There are certain times when we don’t want to cut and certain times when you can’t cut. He now understands the rules getting down field. You can see in his last game that now that he understands the rules, he’s getting after it down field.”
Two months in the scheme and four games has also aided Hopkins in preparing for the start. He had three catches for 39 yards and a crucial fumble against the Canes, but Scott said Hopkins finally understands the offense.
“I think that’s a big part of it,” Scott said. “His ability has been there from the beginning. But as a coach, the biggest thing is his knowledge and comfort level in those types of games. Five weeks into it, including the open week, I think his knowledge is catching up with his ability.
“I feel confident. Obviously he’s not there all the way yet, but I think he’s close enough there to go out and do what we ask him to do. He’ll stay after like we’ve been doing the last couple of weeks- he’ll come in 1-on-1 and sit down with me and we’ll just review some extra things that some of the older guys that have been around here long enough don’t have to do.”
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