With the injury to Amari Rodgers, who steps in to fill the void?
|Wednesday, March 27, 2019, 7:36 AM- -|
At some point Wednesday Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney will address the injury to wide receiver Amari Rodgers, and we will all find out the extent of the injury to Rodgers’ leg and whether team doctors feel like Rodgers could make an appearance at some point during the 2019 season.
If Rodgers is forced to miss time because of the injury – and the expectation is that he will – the coaching staff will have to come up with a Plan B as they try to replace a projected starter in a deep and talented wide receivers’ group.
Rodgers was carted off the practice field Monday after suffering the injury, and an MRI Tuesday confirmed the damage to his ACL.
During the 2018 season, fellow wide receivers Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, and Hunter Renfrow garnered most of the headlines, but Rodgers quietly put together a solid season. He was second on the team with 55 receptions after starting all 15 games at wide receiver. He recorded 575 yards and scored four touchdowns during the Tigers’ historical 15-0 season.
He caught team-high five passes for 73 yards at Texas A&M and recorded career-high six receptions, gaining 60 yards, at Georgia Tech. Rodgers had his best game of the season in Clemson's win at Florida St., when he earned co-offensive player of the game honors after posting career highs in receiving yards (156) and receiving touchdowns (two) on six receptions.
He had touchdown receptions of 58 and 68 yards against the Seminoles and became the first Clemson player to catch two touchdowns of 50-plus yards in a single game since Artavis Scott against South Carolina in 2014, becoming the first Clemson player since 1950 to accomplish the feat on the road.
Rodgers also brought stability to the punt return game, returning 39 punts for an average of 7.7 yards with one touchdown.
Entering spring practice, Rodgers moved from the field wide receiver spot to the slot position in place of Hunter Renfrow. The loss of Rodgers opens the door for explosive playmaker Derion Kendrick, Diondre Overton, TJ Chase, and Cornell Powell. Kendrick has spent time this spring working at cornerback but might move back to offense full-time with the loss of Rodgers. Kendrick will also likely take over the punt return duties. Kendrick played 283 offensive snaps in 15 games as a freshman in 2018, catching 15 passes for 210 yards and returning 13 kickoffs an average of 23.0 yards.
Powell redshirted last season but enters 2019 with 25 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown in 369 snaps over 27 games in his career. Powell also posted seven kickoff returns for 182 yards before the 2019 campaign.
Overton has been working at the outside receiver positions but will no begin the process of cross-training in the slot. He has 30 career receptions for 425 yards over the first two seasons of his career, and a move to the slot could present matchup opportunities for the offense because of his size (6-4, 210).
Another one to watch out for is Chase, who has 18 catches in 29 career games. The redshirt junior can be elusive in the open field but has had older and more experienced players blocking his path to playing time.
For now, however, look for Kendrick to get the first and longest look at replacing Rodgers.