Clemson 'WRU' group carrying out goal to 'shred' defenses
|Thursday, September 27, 2018, 8:01 AM- -|
A more dynamic downfield passing attack has been a staple of Clemson’s 2018 offense.
The Tigers head into the weekend ranked second nationally in both completions of 40 yards or more (8) and 50 yards or more (5). An offense that ranked 124th in passing explosiveness last season (SB Nation’s IsoPP stat) is currently rated 12th in the same site’s big-pass-play measure.
New starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence is up to No. 10 nationally in yards per attempt (10) and has led the Tigers with four connections of over 40 yards this season (three for touchdowns).
Volunteer State sophomore products Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers have been among the beneficiaries, with each posting a 60-plus-yard catch and totaling six receptions of 20-plus yards (matching their 2017 tally already).
“We (say) let's go out there and make plays today,” Higgins said. “Let's shred these defenses. That's our mentality. That's what we're going to go do.”
Freshman Justyn Ross has stepped in and posted two scores of 50-plus yards, including last week during Lawrence’s breakout four-touchdown performance. Ross has regularly lined up alongside fellow 6-foot-4 target Higgins to give defenses something to think about.
“That's crazy. When in practice they made that package, we were like, 'Oh my God,” Rodgers said. “That's going to kill defenses. Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins are both incredible players and both 6-(4) and fast. I don't see how (you stop that). That's just incredible and they work their tails off too.
“They're not just big. They're ballers too and work for it. It pays off.”
“Every time he scores, I'm like, 'Man, how are you always that open?,’” Higgins said jokingly of Ross. “But I'm happy for him. He's developing as a young man and you can tell he's growing and getting stronger and getting used to the speed of the game too.”
Through four games, 12 Tigers have at least three receptions (nine in the WR corps) - led by Rodgers’ 17 catches for 191 yards. Higgins (22.1) and Ross (28.7) are leading the way in yards per catch and Ross has a narrow edge on Higgins in touchdowns (3-2).
Rodgers says Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott has told them that they are “one of the best groups he’s ever seen,” which is quite a statement at a school billed as ‘WRU.’
“I feel like we have fun,” Rodgers said of internal competition. “It's not like a, 'I'm better than you' type thing. It's a competitive friendship. That's how we are. We push each other in that way. Just like when we make a play, we're like, 'Alright, it's your turn to go out and make a play.'
“I feel like we're good at pushing each other and we will get the best out of each other that way.”
And both Rodgers and Higgins have seen Lawrence develop as the season has gone on.
“I'm happy for him. He's been working his tail off since he got here,” Rodgers said Monday of Lawrence starting. “I'm happy to see that it's paying off for him. He's doing really good for us.”
“He's a lot smarter since the spring game,” Higgins said Monday. “You can tell he's stronger. And you can tell he's getting used to the speed of the game.”