Tiger receivers step up on Saturday

by - Senior Writer -
Jeff Scott has to find a capable replacement for Jacoby Ford in the 'A' receiver spot.

CLEMSON – Consistency.

Clemson wide receivers coach Jeff Scott said that is the one thing he is looking for from his group after the Tigers completed their scrimmage inside Death Valley Saturday morning.

The Tigers lost their top three pass catchers from a year ago, and while only one of those was a wide receiver [Jacoby Ford], that position is generally regarded as a weak spot for the Tiger offense.

On Saturday, the group followed a poor performance in last Tuesday’s scrimmage with a much-improved effort - Terrance Ashe led the receivers with five catches for 76 yards, including a 44-yard completion from quarterback Kyle Parker, while freshman receiver DeAndre Hopkins finished with 4-for-52 receiving and Marquan Jones added three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown from Parker. Freshman Joe Craig had one catch, but it went for 40 yards.

Scott said his group now needs to focus on giving that type of effort every time out.

“The biggest thing for us is consistency,” he said following the scrimmage. “Tuesday was not great, but today was a really good day. Now, the thing is, can you come out and do this day in and day out. That is where we have to grow as a group.”

Scott said the biggest thing he would take out of the scrimmage was the progress the group made from last Tuesday to Saturday.

“If you look where we were after the first scrimmage on Tuesday, to where we are today, the biggest thing a coach can ask for is progress,” he said. “You want to see them correct the mistakes they made on Tuesday. What we did today was put the guys into the same situations they were in on Tuesday to see if they would correct it, and they did.

“We are not where we need to be right now, but we don’t have to be. We still have a couple of weeks to get them ready. But I’m confident they will be ready, and I’m really pleased with the way the group is coming together.”

While Scott said that there is a definite depth chart, that doesn’t mean that anyone has earned a starting job – yet.

“We rotate the groups in and out every three plays,” he said. “That way, all of the receivers get a chance to work with Kyle, to work with Tajh, to work with Mike Wade and with Donnie McElveen. We put them all into similar situations and see who rises to the top. But we haven’t had anybody to step up and become a definite starter yet.”

In the Clemson offense, the two outside receivers are the ‘X’ and the ‘Z’ receivers, while the receiver in the slot is the ‘A’ receiver. Last season, when Clemson played in a three-receiver set, Jacoby Ford lined up as the ‘A’ receiver, the position that does most of the end-arounds, reverses, etc., and when the Tigers went to a two-wide set, Ford would slip over the ‘Z’ spot.

As of Saturday afternoon, Scott said that Xavier Dye and Brandon Clear are tied for first-team honors at the ‘X’ spot, but that freshman wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is “catching up quickly.” At the ‘A’ spot, Marquan Jones holds the lead, but Scott said that redshirt freshman Bryce McNeal is “right behind him and doing really well.” At the ‘Z’, Jaron Brown and Terrance Ashe are splitting time with Brandon Ford “right on their heels.”

Scott said that the competition between so many players has made the group better.

“I have been really pleased that everyone has kind of stayed together through this,” he said. “I challenged guys to step up and make plays, and a guy makes a play, and then his backup comes in and makes a great play, too. The competition has been really strong through the first 13 practices, and I hope that continues to happen and we get to where we can play six or seven in a game.

“I wouldn’t say there have been any surprises, but Bryce has done a good job, and Marquan has had some good days. But the two freshmen, DeAndre and Joe Craig, both of those guys are learning quickly, and hopefully it will keep that way into the fall.”

Hopkins, who had one big catch during the scrimmage, showed his grasp of the offense as he talked about the play with reporters.

“Coach Scott called a play for me, and I saw right off that is was press coverage,” Hopkins said. “I knew that if I got off the press, the safety would have to come down and he [quarterback Mike Wade] delivered it perfect. I know on that play, that if the safety comes down, I am getting the deep ball no matter what.”

Hopkins said that his comfort factor with the offense is far different than it was on August 3rd, when practice started.

“I feel comfortable with everything,” he said. “Coach Scott is helping me with meetings before and after practice, and I feel really good about the scheme and everything going on. This group of receivers, we feel like underdogs, so we come out every day in practice and we hard, because we feel like we have something to prove.”

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