Losing receiver Charone Peake to a torn knee ligament cost a critical piece in the offense, but there are options, and Clemson coaches contend that in Adam Humphries they have more than a replacement when they meet N.C. State on Thursday night.
Humphries drips versatility. At Dorman High he played five positions, occasionally in the same game. Curiously, Dabo Swinney said he was sold on Humphries at a basketball game.
“I went to watch Charone Peake and I couldn’t take my eyes off Adam Humphries,” Swinney said. “He was the point guard and just running the show.
“That’s when I said we ought to take a closer look at this guy.”
Though Humphries came with Peake as a receiver, Swinney said he could easily have been a running back, cornerback or safety.
“He’s just one of those rare guys,” said Swinney. “He’s just a player, a great football player.”
At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he doesn’t possess the ranginess and athleticism of the 6-5 Peake, though Swinney would wrestle with anybody who argues he’s a step down.
“He’s quick as all get out. He’s got great hands. He’s instinctive. He’s the epitome of a football player,” Swinney said. “Adam’s going to play in the NFL. And he has a passion for the game that all the great players have.”
Humphries entered this season with 56 catches for 410 yards and a touchdown in five starts. Through two games this season, he has seven receptions for 45 yards.
When offensive coordinator Chad Morris reshuffled the personnel, Humphries made it easier. Listed behind Watkins on the depth chart, Humphries is capable of playing all three receiver spots.
“A player with his versatility is very special,” Swinney said. “Adam could go play corner. He could play safety. We could probably put him at running back.”
Last season, when injuries shredded the secondary, Humphries practiced at corner.
“Not everybody could do that,” Swinney said. “Humphries could be a great defensive back.”
After a major haul for the secondary with this year’s freshman class, the need was at receiver. Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Humphries are the principales, with redshirt freshman Germone Hopper and freshmen Mike Williams and T.J. Green the other healthy scholarship receivers.
“Where it hurts us is in our depth,” Swinney said of Peake’s injury.
Hopper had six catches and two touchdowns in the S.C. State game.
“I think he has a chance to be a very good player for us,” Swinney said of Hopper. “Love his toughness. He plays with a physical edge to him that I like in a wideout.”
Ideally, Williams and Green will be allowed time to develop, but they could have an impact as the season matures. Williams is long like Bryant and Peake and could become a favorite against smaller corners, particularly in jump and fade calls.
“We just have to ramp up the development,” Swinney said.
Swinney said Peake probably will have surgery to repair the torn ACL after the Boston College game then begin rehabilitation that could push through next spring. Clemson intends to petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt so that the two games this season won’t cost him a year of eligibility.
Meanwhile, Humphries is the next option after Peake.
“Adam Humphries is a special player,” Swinney said. “He’s a natural.”