Injuries major and minor among Clemson football’s wide receiving corps haven’t put a damper on coach Dabo Swinney’s confidence in the group, he said Saturday.
“We’re building a lot of confidence in a lot of areas,” Swinney said after the Tiger’s first scrimmage of 2022 preseason camp. “We’ve just got more depth there than we’ve had in a long, long time. We’re headed in the right direction.”
The Tigers lost redshirt freshman Troy Stellato (torn ACL) for the season Friday while junior EJ Williams (back) and sophomore Beaux Collins (shoulder) are rehabbing short-term injuries.
Freshman Adam Randall has also been a non-contact participant in preseason camp as he rehabs a torn ACL, while senior Joseph Ngata was a non-contact participant in Monday’s open practice with an undisclosed injury before practicing normally in Friday’s media viewing period.
But the “encouraging thing” about Williams and Collins’ absences, Swinney said, “is that it’s allowed us to really challenge some other guys.”
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Swinney highlighted Ngata (who’s back at full speed), redshirt junior Brannon Spector, sophomore Will Taylor and true freshmen Cole Turner and Antonio Williams as receivers taking advantage of more reps in recent practices.
In other words, he’s not concerned about the health or depth of a group that’s seen five of its 10 scholarship receivers spend at least one practice as a limited participant in the first week of camp.
“I’m super pleased with our group,” Swinney said.
True freshman early enrollee Randall, who tore his ACL in the spring, is still trending toward making his Clemson debut sometime in September. Ngata (23 catches, 438 yards and one touchdown in 2021) has been “awesome,” Swinney said, and made a few big plays in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Williams and Beaux Collins (31 catches, 407 yards and three touchdowns in 2021) were both off to “a great start” in camp before their injuries, which Swinney said shouldn’t affect their status for Clemson’s Sept. 5 season opener at Georgia Tech.
Williams suffered a hematoma, or a deep bruise, on his back after making a contested catch early this week. He wore a non-contact jersey along with Randall on Friday but should “hopefully be back running around Monday,” Swinney said.
Collins didn’t dress for Friday’s practice after falling on his shoulder earlier in the week. Swinney didn’t have an immediate timeline for Collins’ return but said he’ll likely sit out the following week of camp as a precautionary measure.
The Tigers’ only long-term attrition at the position, so far, is Stellato.
Lingering injuries limited the former four-star recruit to two games and 23 snaps during his 2021 true freshman season. Stellato was also limited with a hamstring injury in Clemson’s Aug. 5 camp opener before tearing his ACL a week later.
Stellato is the second Clemson player to suffer a season-ending injury in camp. Freshman Myles Oliver had season-ending shoulder surgery this week after a lingering issue from high school popped back up, Swinney said.
“It’s just another setback for him,” Swinney said. “But he’s a redshirt freshman. It’s frustrating. But I’m just trying to encourage him … he’s still got four years left starting next year.”