Clemson University

Freshman Justyn Ross already impressing Clemson’s veterans: ‘That guy is a freak’

Dabo Swinney on Clemson’s improved receivers

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on early practice observations, improved receivers
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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on early practice observations, improved receivers

Justyn Ross had his sights set on having a huge freshman year before he ever arrived at Clemson for the 2018 season.

The 6-foot-4 wideout was aware he was joining, perhaps, the best group of receivers in the country before he decided to choose the Tigers over Alabama.

But Ross is confident in his ability as a playmaker, and he made that known over the summer.

“Coming in, I know I’m going to have to work for it. But I feel like I’m going to come in and play a good amount of time,” Ross told The State in May. “My goals are to be a freshman All-American and All-ACC.”

If the first nine practices of preseason camp are any indication, Ross may be ready to live up to his lofty goals.

The No. 1 recruit from the state of Alabama has drawn praise from Clemson coaches and fellow teammates throughout the first couple of weeks of practice.

Tigers receiver Tee Higgins, who knows how hard it is to play significant minutes at Clemson as a freshman, was asked what Ross needs to work on the most to be ready to contribute this year. He had trouble coming up with an answer.

“That guy is a freak,” Higgins said. “I thought he was going to need a lot more improvement than he did. It’s just the little things like releases, his stance, everything really that all of us need. It’s just the little things.”

Higgins, who averaged more than 20 yards per catch in 2017, impressed at the end of the year as he got more comfortable with Clemson’s system and the speed of the game.

The Tennessee native finished with 17 catches and 345 yards and believes Ross is farther along now than he was at this point last year.

“He’s quick off the ball. You just don’t see that in an incoming freshman,” Higgins said. “Like me, I wasn’t quick off the ball. I had to learn and get used to the game. That man, he’s just very quick. You can see it. And he can go up and get the ball.”

Ross showed off that ability to go up and make a play during Clemson’s scrimmage Saturday.

He made a leaping one-handed catch that the Clemson football Twitter account posted. The video went viral and offered Clemson fans a glimpse of what Ross is capable of.

“That’s what he did in high school. He made plays like that all the time,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s just a gift. He’s incredibly blessed when it comes to his ball skills … It was awesome to see him in that setting finish some of those plays. That’s great for his confidence and all of those things.”

Ross arrived confident, and is likely even more so now.

He modeled his game after Julio Jones coming up and was also a big fan of former Clemson stars Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins.

Ross believes he possesses the same skill set as those electrifying playmakers.

“I’m a big receiver, but I can move like a small receiver,” he said. “I have that quick twitch with my routes, and I feel like I’m a pretty good route runner.”

Hopkins, Watkins and a host of other Clemson receivers are having success in the NFL. Ross hopes to follow that same path.

“I’ve seen the way they develop receivers at my position and at my size,” Ross said of Clemson. “And I feel like I can be the next one.”

So far so good.