Cornell Powell has been working and waiting for an opportunity to have an increased role in Clemson’s high-flying offense. The North Carolina native could finally get his shot in 2019.
Powell has flashed at receiver and on special teams for the Tigers throughout his three years at Clemson but has yet to break out and become a consistent threat.
He appeared on his way to doing so last year, catching five passes for 63 yards the first four games. However, an academic issue forced him to sit out starting in Week 5. When the situation was resolved a few weeks later, the Clemson coaching staff made the decision to turn the 2018 season into a redshirt one for Powell.
“Every week I went out there and helped my team the best way I could during practice, so then on Saturdays I knew that they were prepared and ready to go out there and dominate and put on a show,” Powell told The State in January. “It’s been hard of course not being able to go out there and play, but I’m still happy and satisfied with our results as a team.”
Powell believes he is a better player after not being able to play in games for the Tigers for much of the 2018 season. He worked hard in the weight room and on the practice field to become a better receiver, but that is not where he made the biggest stride.
“I think I’ve grown the most mentally, mental toughness,” Powell said. “Not being able to play was really tough so just had to buckle down and look at the bigger picture and see what worked out best for me. I have an extra year here at Clemson now, and so I feel like it benefited me.”
Powell can play all three of Clemson’s receiver positions, but the Tigers need someone to step up at slot.
Clemson has plenty of talent on the outside led by Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. But last year’s starter at slot — Hunter Renfrow — was drafted by the Raiders and is preparing for his rookie season in the NFL. And this year’s projected starter — Amari Rodgers — tore his ACL this spring. Another candidate to start was Derion Kendrick, but he was switched to cornerback in the spring.
That leaves Powell and senior Diondre Overton as the most likely options to be starters at slot when Clemson opens camp later this summer.
Powell played slot in the spring game and was impressive, catching four passes for 33 yards.
“He did good. I thought he had a good day,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said at the time. “And Cornell plays everywhere. He and Overton are two guys that we’re kinda cross training in some spots, but it was good to see Cornell make some plays.”
Powell believes that he brings physicality, explosiveness, playmaking ability and a will to win to the playing field every time he steps on it.
The Tigers have a couple of receivers on the 2019 team that have already proven what they can do in big games in Higgins and Ross. Powell is ready to show what he can do as well and help the Tigers continue to prove that they are Wide Receiver U.
“We’re already the best in the nation and we’re only getting better.” Powell said. “Every year we’re the top guys for a reason, because people improve here and live on that legacy of Wide Receiver U. We go out there and we try to display that and I think we’re doing a pretty good job.”