What Justyn Ross’ Injury Means for Clemson
Written by: Logan Rosengard
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross will undergo surgery for a neck/spine issue this Friday, eliminating him from the Tigers' season, according to head coach Dabo Swinney. Last season the then Sophomore at Clemson caught 66 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns. Ross was their number one option out wide this past season, making the injury a blow to the Tiger receiver corps. With that being said, all hope is not lost for the upcoming campaign.
Who slots in his place?
The Tigers' second option for last season, Amari Rodgers, seems to be the likely candidate to receive the bulk of Trevor Lawrences passes. The 5’10” reciever caught 30 passes for a total of 426 yards and four touchdowns. He’s a pretty fast runner and gets around defenders pretty handily, giving Lawrence the deep option that Ross would hold. Behind him is Sophomore Joseph Ngata. He went for 240 yards and three touchdowns with only 17 receptions last season, but he’s more than capable and ready to take on more offensive responsibility. He’s a little taller than Rodgers, giving him a height and reach advantage on the field that Rodgers doesn’t have. Outside of the two of them, the rest of the receiver corps can be slotted into that third option. Sophomore Frank Ladson Jr. is looking to improve on his Freshman year and prove that he can take on a higher responsibility later in his college career. Will Swinney, the coach’s son, will also look to add some power to the lineup for his senior season. Even though Ross was a key weapon for Trevor Lawrence to have going into the season, there is still a plethora of talent for him to throw to as the Tigers look to win their fourth National Championship.
What games become an issue?
Ross was a deadly weapon for Lawrence, and without him it could cause some trouble for them this season, right?
Not in particular. The ACC has been a step behind Clemson almost every season, and this season looks like it won’t be much different. Their toughest opponent will likely be Notre Dame, a prime time game in South Bend. Notre Dame is coming off of a season being in the top 15 teams in the country, and a win against a talented team like Clemson at the end of the season will be huge for the Fighting Irish. With that being said, Clemson still has the best QB in the nation to lead their offense, which gives them a huge advantage in every game they play this season. While Clemson’s regular season schedule doesn’t present many scares or bumps, a game to watch for is a potential ACC Championship matchup against Miami. Of course, there’s no guarantee that Miami will win the Coastal division, but if they can, they could cause some problems for a Clemson team who will now lean a little more on Running Back Travis Etienne. Etienne could be one of the best backs in the country this year, but Miami brings in a fierce front 7 led by Gregory Rousseau. Lawrence and company should still be able to handle the Canes, but if you are looking for a team that could cause problems for Clemson before the playoff, Miami could be that team.
Ross’ ability to play after his surgery will be the deciding factor on how his draft stock is affected. If he is able to make a full recovery and return for his Senior season, there is no doubt that his stock will be high. Regardless of that, however, any serious injury that could affect a player’s ability to play will always lower a player's value, even if they recover and come back to play later on. Drafting an injured player, especially when it’s something in Ross’ spine, is a liability to a team's offense, and can hinder his value in the future.
Although Ross is a valued asset to Clemson’s receiver corps, there shouldn’t be too much of an issue with their performance in the coming season. Trevor Lawrence is too good of a quarterback to let one piece of the offense hinder his efficiency. With the start of the season in question, tending to the gap in the Tiger offense might not be a priority, but when it comes time to play, Clemson should still be in perfect shape to make a run for the National Championship.