Deon Cain said he spent a lot of time in the weight room this offseason, which is fitting because he will be counted on to shoulder the load as the go-to guy with Mike Williams moving to the NFL.
Clemson’s junior receiver has proven himself to be one of the best deep-threat weapons in college football.
Cain led the Tigers in yards per catch at 19.1 last season and was second on the team in touchdowns with nine, despite not starting any of Clemson’s 15 games.
Tigers co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach Jeff Scott challenged Cain to become a more complete receiver this offseason instead of just a guy who can take the top off a defense.
“There’s a difference between coming off the bench and playing a couple of plays and being the guy that’s out there for an eight-play drive. Just mentally and physically being ready to have the stamina and be an every-down player,” Scott said. “Everybody knows he can come off the bench and run by people and deep balls and all of that, but there’s a lot to that position.”
Williams, who was drafted by the Chargers with the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft, excelled at being an all-around receiver while helping the Tigers to the 2016 national title.
He stayed on the field for long periods of time and was able to beat defensive backs on short routes, intermediate routes and deep routes. Cain will be counted on to do the same this season.
“There’s a lot of requirements,” Scott said. “You’ve got to be able to win the slants on third-and-3 against big corners, and you’ve got to be able to do all the intermediate routes, along with the deep routes. And you’ve got to be able to play consistently 50 to 55 plays.”
Cain believes he did what he needed to do this offseason in order to be the top playmaker for the Tigers.
The Florida native lost weight to be in better shape so he can play more plays and stayed in the weight room to ensure his body is able to handle the added workload.
“I’ve done a lot of shoulder work and a lot of speed work. I know I’ve got to have a lot more plays on the field and get my endurance up. It’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work,” Cain said. “Last year, I was in the 200s. Right now, I’m at about 195.I feel good with where I’m at.”
In addition to being ready physically, Cain is also working on being a better leader for his teammates.
“It’s new. I always was the one looking behind Mike or Charone (Peake) or those other guys. Now it feels weird that I’m that guy now, but I’ve been there before. I lean on my teammates and lead by example,” Cain said. “I always see myself as a leader. I’ve been a quarterback all my life so it’s nothing to me to always push my teammates and myself. I always want to see myself get better and my teammates get better.”
Three first rounders?
CBSsports.com projects three Clemson players will be first-round picks in the 2018 NFL draft:
9. Lions: Christian Wilkins, DT
Wilkins, who will be ready to start immediately, can take over for Haloti Ngata (free agent in 2018) inside and give the Lions a ferocious defensive line.
17. Giants: Mitch Hyatt, OT
Hyatt might not have the measurables teams are looking for in an offensive tackle, but if he puts another good year on tape, he’ll be impossible to keep out the first round.
26. Bills: Deon Cain, WR
The Bill’s position could take a big hit if Sammy Watkins departs after the team failed to exercise his 2018 option. Cain has the deep speed the Bills need.