Question #5: Who Will Step Up At Wide Receiver?
Clemson is two years removed from having the wide receivers be the strength of the team. Now heading into 2005, wide receiver is the biggest question mark on the team. The wealth of 6-4 targets is no longer available or the proven deep threat in Airese Currie. The wide receiver position is full of players with “potential”.
Chansi Stuckey set the bar high with 112 yard receiving effort in last year’s opener against Wake Forest. Stuckey struggled with injuries that limited his production last season. When healthy, there is very little doubt Stuckey can be the go to receiver. Under Rob Spence, Stuckey will have more chances to make people miss underneath and spring a big play. Stuckey has been singled out as the leader of wide receivers and his teammates have said he has accepted the role and led by example in summer workouts.
The biggest question mark is Kelvin Grant. Grant has skated by on his potential long enough. For all intensive purposes, Grant has caught one pass that mattered at Clemson and dropped many more that mattered. Grant had a promising spring, but he is the player that has a short leash and must prove himself to the coaches and fans. Can Grant step up? The answer to that question is yes, but will he is another one in itself. The time is now for Grant, because Coach Bowden has been more patient with Grant than any other player that has played for him. Coach Bowden’s patience has run out and it is either put up or shutup for Grant.
Curtis Baham is the lone senior at wide receiver. He had a promising start to the spring before being injured. Baham is a solid possession receiver, who I could potentially see catching between 35-40 passes this season. Baham will not blow by defender with his speed, but he runs good routes and rarely drops a pass.
Sophomore La’Donte Harris was the surprise of spring practice. If Harris continues his play for the spring, he will find himself among the starting rotation. Harris avoided a redshirt last year, because he was the more complete receiver between himself and Aaron Kelly. Harris is an intelligent and very coachable player. The main question with Harris is a lack of experience, but he looked promising in the spring.
Redshirt freshman Aaron Kelly closed spring practice on fire. In fact, Grant’s latest slip up allowed Kelly to be named a starter. Kelly gives Charlie Whitehurst a tall target at 6-4. Kelly runs well in the open field, and his playing style is similar to former Tiger Derrick Hamilton. Kelly will battle Grant all fall for the starting spot. Fellow redshirt freshman Andrew Diomande is still very raw. Diomande has some skills, but he is inconsistent. Diomande has a good future, but I am not certain his future has a big role this season.
Wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney is excited to get his two freshmen on campus. Rendrick Taylor and Tyler Grisham will see action this fall as true freshman. Grisham has been described as a player that runs Tony Elliot like routes, but faster and catches everything. Grisham is ahead of Taylor going into fall camp, but the difference is minimal. Taylor physically is a freak of nature. Until he proves himself as a receiver on Saturdays, Taylor is going to have to hear about a potential move to linebacker. Coach Swinney will fight the good fight to keep Taylor on offense, but Taylor may need to catch on in his first year with Swinney to avoid a move to defense in 2006.
The wide receivers group is not without talent nor without question marks. Whitehurst has constantly heard the question of will he return to form, but his receivers will have a large say in his play. Kevin Youngblood, Derrick Hamilton, Airese Currie, and Tony Elliot were very talented and dangerous, but they are gone. This group will be asked to mature quickly, but an improved running game could make the transition easier.