Amari Rodgers turning heads early in fall camp
Rodgers works out during practice Thursday

Amari Rodgers turning heads early in fall camp

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – The Clemson coaching staff watched the first practice of fall camp Thursday afternoon, then met together in the new football complex to talk about the freshmen. They all agreed that Amari Rodgers is the real deal.

The freshman wide receiver out of Knoxville, Tenn., grew up in the shadow of Neyland Stadium, the football home of the Tennessee Volunteers. His biological father, Tee Martin, led the Vols to a National Championship in the 90’s, but when Rodgers decided to pick a school, he picked Clemson in part so he could make his own way in the world, and make people remember his name.

He’s already caught the eyes of the Clemson coaches. Rodgers is working at the slot position manned by Artavis Scott the last three seasons, and on Saturday he worked with the first unit because of injuries to Ray-Ray McCloud and Cornell Powell.

“You don’t just replace a fourth-year player with a freshman right away, but this is the first time that I’ve had nine scholarship guys that I feel can go out there and play winning football,” wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “After the first practice, the coaches get together in the locker room and are like, ‘Alright, how are your freshmen? What do you think?’

“This is the first time that I can remember that every coach is like, ‘Yes, we hit on him. This guy is exactly what we thought or even a little bit more.’ Obviously, it’s early. We’re in jerseys and shorts the first couple of days, but just from an athleticism standpoint and then also from a maturity standpoint.”

Scott then said that Rodgers is mature beyond his years.

“I know from my position Amari Rodgers is probably one of the most mature freshmen that I’ve had in my eight years at Clemson,” Scott said. “Just super focused, and that’s not something that you can—you learn a little bit about them in the recruiting process and all that, but you can’t find that out until they get here.

“Sometimes as freshmen, it takes them a little while to figure out how serious, how important everything is. You know the install—it’s not good enough just to come and have the install meeting with the coach. He’s coming in an hour early and getting on the computer and taking your own notes before we actually have the meeting—that’s stuff that the typical junior or senior would do. Asking the right questions.”

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney – who knows a thing or two about the wide receiver position – has taken notice of Rodgers.

“He is way beyond where you’d think a freshman would be,” Swinney said. “He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s pretty technically sound, he’s got great ball skills. I’m incredibly encouraged. He’s gotten a ton of work with the ones because Cornell tweaked his ham yesterday, so he was limited today, so all of a sudden Amari is jumping in there with the ones and he didn’t miss a beat. He’s made some incredible plays.”

Scott said that Rodgers and fellow Tennessee native Tee Higgins are part of a talented group of freshmen.

“I’ve been very pleased with all of our freshmen. We’re going really fast from an install standpoint,” Scott said. “We really wanted to be really aggressive with our install and get as much in as we could and really challenge, not just our freshmen, but that next group of guys that need to step up this year. Those freshmen have responded well.

“As a coach, I just can gauge it off, I can remember when Nuk Hopkins came in as a freshman. I can remember when Sammy (Watkins) and Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake and those guys came in as freshmen, and the questions I would ask and the responses I would get back. Amari and Tee have done an excellent job.”

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