Coming into the season everyone knew that Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne would headline the Tiger offense. While the latter of those two has carried the load for the run game, the Clemson passing attack has had to spread the ball around. For the first time in several years, this team doesn’t have a standout number one receiver playing out wide. This year it has been more of a group approach instead of having one or two big names making all the plays.
Clemson Passing Attack Spreading the Ball Around
The past few seasons, Lawrence had star players like Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross to throw the ball to. The former is now catching passes on Sundays for the Cincinnati Bengals, while the latter is out for the year with a spinal injury. This has opened up opportunities for some lesser-known names to step up at receiver. The lack of a big name out wide hasn’t hurt the Clemson passing attack too much, as they have amassed over 3,000 yards through the air on the season.
Amari Rodgers leads the Tigers in catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2020. He has been efficient and productive all season long. Rodgers gets a lot of his work out of the slot and on screens to the edge. The Tigers like to get the ball in his hands in space so he can make defenders miss. He isn’t the match-up problem that the lead receivers of past years have been. However, he has still been the favorite target of both quarterbacks who have started this season. Rodgers has two 100 yard games and at least five grabs in every ACC contest. Despite not being the typical number one wide-out, he is closing in on a 1,000-yard season.
Behind Rodgers, the rest of the receiving corps is much more of a group effort. There are five pass catchers with between 12 and 37 receptions. Etienne has also chipped in with 40 grabs out of the backfield. Senior Cornell Powell has stepped up in his final year in orange and purple. He has almost as many grabs in nine games this year as he had in the previous 27 games of his career. Powell got off to a slow start as the Tigers tried to find a compliment to Rodgers, but he now has three consecutive 100-yard games. He really found chemistry with D.J. Uiagalelei when the freshman had to step in under center. His jump in production carried over to Lawrence’s return at quarterback against Pittsburgh.
Braden Galloway has also emerged as a match-up problem at tight end. The six-foot-four-inch junior has 21 catches on the season. Back-up tight end Davis Allen has just 12 catches, but four of those are for scores. For the year, the Clemson passing attack has 11 different players who have caught a touchdown pass. Frank Ladsen Jr was starting to show why the coaching staff raves about him so much, but an injury has kept him out the past few weeks. His injury opened the door for Powell, who has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
The Tigers finish out their ACC schedule this weekend with a trip to Virginia Tech. Clemson is on course to get a rematch with Notre Dame in the conference championship game. Despite not having Lawrence when the two teams met in South Bend, the Clemson passing attack had over 400 yards through the air. It shows just how versatile and explosive this team can be, even without the headline names it usually has. The Tigers will look to spread the ball around again this Saturday against the Hokies.