Freak athlete Ajou Ajou poised to put it all together
|Sunday, August 1, 2021, 8:00 AM- -|
CLEMSON – Ajou Ajou enters the 2021 football season more polished as a route runner, stronger from his work in the weight room, and more experienced after getting playing time last season. Now it’s time to put it all together.
Wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham told the media last week that while Ajou has reported in at 230 pounds at Clemson, he wants the Canadian transplant a little lighter once the season starts.
“He can carry 230 fine. He’s at 215, maybe 215 now, I believe. It could be even closer to 210. I saw him the other day and he looked more chiseled,” Grisham said. “I don't want to say thinner. I don't think any athlete wants to be said they're thin. But he looked really good. And so for him, he could carry 230 fine, but I think at 210, 215, he can be able to have that stamina that you want at wide receiver. We want to be the most in-shape group on the field. And he can run a go route and come right back and run another one. And so for him, that's going to be important, just to have the conditioning, to stay on the field and not come off. I am excited to see how he does this fall camp.”
Ajou has turned into a weight room junkie.
“From what I've heard in the weight room, he's just a freak athlete. He's going to remind you of Brannon Spector a little bit,” Grisham said. “They're built somewhat similar in stature. He loves the weight room. He's a weight room junkie. Very explosive athletic grinder. So these are the kind of things you want in a receiver. He's confident, too. Talking to him, he's excited and it feels like he can help us.”
Grisham said Ajou isn’t the same player that walked into the receiver's room last year.
“I mean, really it's just a 180. He surprised himself, I think even, a little bit,” Grisham said. “I've always told him, ‘Hey, man, you are a phenomenal, phenomenal athlete. You have just God-given ability, talent that just oozes from you. Let's take all that talent, and let's really focus on the details. You've always been just the best that can jump, and jump over somebody and catch it and run fast, but at this level, you can't get away with just being a great athlete. You have to be a technician.’
“He's been able to do that. He's worked really hard at his breakpoints. He's worked really hard at his flexibility, his fluidity in and out of his breaks, even his stance and start. When the ball's snapped, he gets so many false movements when the ball is snapped, and so trying to tighten that up and make him more efficient, and it's shown.”
Ajou enters 2021 with two career catches for 41 yards and a touchdown in 113 snaps over 10 games, but he was limited to one position last season. This year, Ajou has the ability to play two of the three receiver spots.
“That's another thing, is just understanding the playbook. We just kind of stuck him at one position, but now he's been able to play another position, the boundary and the field, that's created confidence,” Grisham said. “Then off the field, he's done well. He's committed more, I think, academically. That's the thing, too, for our guys to understand. You're not in the NFL, you're a scholar-athlete, and if you can focus off the field, and really, how you do anything, it's like everything. Let's focus on being great academically. Let's focus on being accountable in these areas. It's going to transfer to the field, and you saw that. I think that the light went off, ‘Man, you're right, Coach. I've done so much better in these areas, and it's shown up on the field.’ He's excited, heading into this season.”
Grisham said Ajou simply needed time to figure things out.
“He left Brooks, Alberta and went to Clearwater Academy International. He just needed more coaching. He needed more time,” Grisham said. “He needed more reps. Like anything, he just needed more experience. That's what you get when you get here, is plenty of time to get reps.”