Jeff Scott began his 10th fall camp as a member of Clemson’s coaching staff when the Tigers started preparing for the 2017 season last week.
It marked the first time during his tenure, though, that the assistant coaches all said, “Yes, we hit on him. This guy is exactly what we thought or even a little bit more,” Scott said when describing the 2017 freshmen class.
It’s one of the reasons coach Dabo Swinney has raved about the depth of his team, and it’s why they are giving three teams reps every day in practice instead of having a ton of newcomers stand around watching for three weeks.
Scott, the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach, might be enjoying these youngsters the most. While he admits it’s early, two true freshmen from the Volunteer State, Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers, have received high praise for their ability to make plays and grasp the offense in a short time.
“I just can gauge it off, I can remember when Nuk Hopkins came in as a freshman. I can remember when Sammy (Watkins) and Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake and those guys came in as freshmen, and the questions I would ask and the responses I would get back,” Scott said. “Amari and Tee have done an excellent job.”
Every one of those former Clemson receivers Scott mentioned is currently in the NFL.
Higgins arrived with the most fanfare. At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, the Oak Ridge, Tenn., native was a five-star recruit and Clemson’s highest-rated 2017 prospect. He’s drawn comparisons from recruiting experts to former Georgia and current NFL star A.J. Green, and Higgins already has shown off his leaping, one-handed catch ability in practice.
“I think everyone knows what Tee is, and Tee’s going to be an unbelievable player,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Very smooth.”
Rodgers, who hails from Knoxville, Tenn., is reminding onlookers of Clemson’s all-time leading receiver, Artavis Scott. Rodgers wears the same No. 3, but it’s been his knowledge of the playbook that’s stood out to coaches.
Jeff Scott says Rodgers comes to install meetings with notes after watching film before meetings, and the coach calls the receiver the “most mature” player he’s had at Clemson.
“Amari is beyond his years when you consider what you expect from a freshman,” Swinney said. “He has made some incredible plays already. You can tell he has already put in a lot of study time since he arrived in June.”
That might ease the coaches’ minds a little after losing receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott from last year’s national championship roster.
But how much playing time the dynamic freshman duo sees is uncertain. Returnees Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cornell Powell and Diondre Overton are next in line to be stars, but they’ll be pushed.
When their time comes, whether it’s sooner or later, Clemson coaches believe the lineage of strong receiver play will continue.