Tee Time: Higgins stepping up as season hits crunch time


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Higgins hauls in a pass against South Carolina
Higgins hauls in a pass against South Carolina

CLEMSON – Tee Higgins arrived on Clemson’s campus with high expectations, from the fans to the coaches to Higgins himself. It took Higgins a little time to get used to the Clemson playbook, but he’s now comfortable in the offense and has turned into one of the Tigers’ top playmakers.

Higgins is fourth on the team with 17 receptions for 345 yards, but he had just six receptions after Clemson’s only loss of the season at Syracuse. Higgins didn’t play in that game and had just one reception over the next two weeks in wins over Georgia Tech and N.C. State.

However, he had six receptions for 178 yards against The Citadel and had three more for 84 yards against South Carolina in the regular season finale.

“It came on me hard with all of the new plays. It was hard at first, but I got really comfortable with it, so I'm just going with the flow now,” Higgins said earlier this week. “It was everything - everything was new - it's completely different from high school. My freshman year I played slot in high school so I was kind of used to it, but in college it's different. There are a lot more physical guys like linebackers and safeties.

“It was a big change getting used to everything, all of the routes in the slot. I felt like I could contribute early, but I don't think the coach thought I was ready. They gave me a chance in a game and once I got that first catch it was on from there. I was kind of frustrated, but Coach (Jeff) Scott always told me to keep your head level and just don't worry about it, that it would come and it did. I just kept working and it paid off in The Citadel game.”

Higgins’ next chance to shine is against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, a matchup he is looking forward to.

“We played them close every time, so when they popped up, I was like it's another team the schedule. We gotta go out there with our game plan and complete it,” Higgins said. “We play a lot of top D-1 schools and you can't think of it like that - it's just another team in front of you, another guy in front of you - you just have to go outwork them.”

It’s a game he feels like he can help Clemson win.

“I feel like I can contribute and help the team win. I'm doing my part,” Higgins said. “Anything I can do to help the team - even if I had red-shirted and helped the defense on the scout team - anything I can do to help the team win.”

Higgins was listed by most scouting services as a 5-star, but he never paid attention to the hoopla.

“I really was never too big on the 5-stars. I never believed in all of the hype,” he said. “Any guy from high school has to come in here and work. You can't come in thinking that you're 'the guy,' because there is always someone in front of you. You always have to come in and work.”

What led Higgins to Clemson?

“It was just the love that Dabo gave me. He's just a family man, he's a Godly man and I really looked into that,” Higgins said. “I looked at who could take me in and make me feel at home and that is what Coach Swinney did. I've known Amari (Rogers) since we were like six. We were always competing against each other because we were on different teams. We came together our junior year on a seven-on-seven team and we've been close ever since.”

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