Instant Impact: Tee Higgins will battle for playing time in 2017
|Tuesday, February 7, 2017 3:02 PM- -|
Clemson signed the second-smallest recruiting class of Dabo Swinney’s tenure last week, receiving a National Letter of Intent from 14 2017 prospects. The Tigers went out and signed quality over quantity and filled several needs along the way.
That is especially true at wide receiver.
Clemson loses Mike Williams and Artavis Scott from the receiving corps, a duo that combined for 174 catches last season and 420 for their careers. That’s a lot of production, but the Clemson coaches are confident that players like Deon Cain, Trevion Thompson. Ray-Ray McCloud, Hunter Renfrow, Diondre Overton, Cornell Powell and T.J. Chase can more than make up the difference.
That’s seven receivers ready to step in and take over, but one of 2017’s recruits has the potential to play immediately – Tee Higgins.
Higgins committed to Clemson last July, picking the Tigers over Tennessee.
“It’s just that family feel that they give me,” Higgins said at the time. “Coach Swinney and Coach Scott make me feel like family, and that’s what I like about them.”
Higgins told TigerNet he wanted to come to Clemson and win championships, and he expects to play in the same “9-man” spot occupied by Williams and Nuk Hopkins.
“Clemson is my future school,” he said. “We're going to win some championships. It's great to be a Tiger. We're definitely going to win championships. They tell me that I can be one of the best, but I just have to work at it. They see me as a 9-man receiver, which is where Nuk Hopkins played. So I’ve been looking at that.”
We watched Higgins at a few different showcases and combines, but our best glimpse of him was at Swinney’s high school camp last June. Higgins stands out immediately because of his 6-5 frame, but he doesn’t lack for speed, quickness, or agility.
He gets off the line of scrimmage in a burst, and he uses his long arms to gain separation from defenders. It was during the night session, however, that he showed out, and a high school coach in attendance gave me the highlights.
During Wednesday night’s session – long after the media had been evicted from the building – Hunter Johnson worked with both Amari Rodgers and Higgins. According to one observer, Rodgers “sliced and diced” his way to success, while Higgins simply put on a show. He went over defenders. He went past them. He went through them. He went under them. I was told that almost every pass that came his way he caught, and that he high-points the ball at the high point. The high school coach dispensing the information told me it was one of the best camp performances he’s ever seen.
Higgins has the potential to step into Williams’ role, but he has to learn the offense and block well enough to satisfy Jeff Scott. I can see Higgins taking the same route as Hopkins – show up in camp, not start the first few games, and earn more playing time as the season progresses.
TEE HIGGINS BIO
*2017 class according to ESPN, Scout and 247 Sports ... rated the No. 15 prospect in the nation by Rivals, No. 1 in Tennessee and No. 2 wide receiver in the nation … rated No. 18 overall, including second among receivers and second in Tennessee according to ESPN … rated the No. 19 prospect in the nation, No. 2 receiver and No. 3 in Tennessee by 247 Sports … second-team USA Today All-American ... played in the Under Armour All-American game in Orlando, Fla. ... Mr. Football in Tennessee at the AAAAA level in 2015 and 2016 ... as a senior, had 68 receptions for 1,044 yards and 18 touchdowns ... added three scores on punt returns and one on an interception return ... that was an 89-yard return for a score ... helped his Oak Ridge High School team to a 9-3 record as a senior ... as a junior, had 46 receptions for 841 yards and 16 touchdowns ... helped team to an 11-3 record as a junior ... named AAAAA Back of the Year by the Tennessee Titans ... as a sophomore, helped team to an undefeated season with 23 receptions for 387 yards and six scores ... started as a freshman, the first freshman to start at his high school since 2002 ... played for Joe Gaddis ... an outstanding basketball player as well, he was a finalist for Mr. Basketball in Tennessee as a junior ... averaged 15 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a junior ... has done well on the hardcourt as a senior as well, helping his team to a 20-2 record through January 2017 ... committed to Clemson on July 4, 2016 ... wore #5 in football and basketball in high school ... chose Clemson over Tennessee, Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama ... recruited by Jeff Scott and Dan Brooks.