The Clemson Tigers‘ talented receiving corps took a huge blow Wednesday evening when starting receiver Charone Peake suffered a torn ACL, bringing what could have been a bright year for the upcoming junior receiver to an end. Prior to getting his season cut short, Peake had eight receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown through the first two games.
Where does the Tiger receiving corps go from here after losing a player who was arguably their No. 2 receiver?
Now, all eyes will be on fellow junior Martvais Bryant to step up his game, who has certainly flashed the talent, but his performance through the first two weeks hasn’t quite won over Tiger fans. After not having a single reception in Week 1 against Georgia, Bryant bounced back and finished with four catches for 87 yards against the South Carolina State Bulldogs in Week 2. His first two years plagued by injury and questionable work ethic, Bryant posted 526 yards on 19 receptions, with six of them going for touchdowns. Bryant’s deep-threat ability will be needed now more than ever, but he will also have to be able to catch short passes underneath coverage as teams attempt to take away Clemson’s deep passing threat. He will now be looked upon as the next viable No. 2 option beside receiver Sammy Watkins.
The loss of Peake also means junior Adam Humphries steps into the starting role. Humphries effectively played starter minutes, so this does not come as a huge surprise. Humphries caught 41 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown last season, and will get plenty of calls on the short underneath routes as the Tigers’ gritty possession receiver. So far, he has seven receptions for 53 yards through the first two weeks.
But the biggest question will come from the trio of receivers in redshirt freshman Germone Hopper and true freshmen Mike Williams and T.J. Green. Hopper certainly gained confidence with his six-reception, 66-yard, two-touchdown performance against South Carolina State, and could certainly see more time as the fourth receiver in the slot. Peake’s loss also means a promotion for Williams, who has the physical body type of former Tiger Deandre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins, but is still developing as a receiver. Green has good raw ability and speed as a receiver, but is still learning the nuances of the position. Each of these freshmen caught their first passes against South Carolina State, and they will be asked to step into larger roles behind the main trio of Watkins, Bryant and Humphries.
This could also mean bigger receiving roles for the tight ends as well. Stanton Seckinger has proven himself a viable flex option at tight end, and Tiger fans may see him flexed out more often. Seckinger’s reassurance at tight end allows tight end/H-back Darrell Smith to reassume more of his blocking duties, though he has shown he can catch a few passes when necessary. Jordan Leggett also factors into the equation as well while Sam Cooper continues to be eased back onto the field from his ACL injury that he suffered in the spring. Though we figure he is well enough to see the field, we can expect the combination of Seckinger as the starter, along with Smith and Leggett in the rotation. This is especially a great opportunity for a young player like Leggett, who can give the Tigers potential mismatches as another flex option.
While the Tigers certainly have talent and depth in the receiving corps and at tight end, the loss of Peake hurts, and his ability on both short and long routes in addition to his ball skills takes both talent and leadership off the field.