It was easy to see in Clemson’s spring game, but Dabo Swinney definitely favors a certain body type in his wide receivers.
Before missing last season with an injury, Clemson’s Ross combined to total 1,865 receiving yards and 17 touchdown receptions as a freshman and sophomore. Other Tiger wideouts who will likely see their share of snaps this Saturday against Georgia include juniors Frank Ladson (18 receptions for 281 yards in 2020) and Joseph Ngata (7-83) and sophomores E.J. Williams (24-306) and Brannon Spector (16-136). Of the five Clemson receivers mentioned, all but Spector stand at least 6-foot-3 in height and all but Spector and Williams weight at least 205 pounds.
That’s a lot of size, even if this group outside of Ross hasn’t proven itself to be particularly productive in receptions yet. How does Georgia counter?
According to Georgia’s Ameer Speed, a fifth-year defensive back, the Tigers’ receiving unit is indeed big and physical. Still, the Bulldogs have a couple of larger-sized cornerbacks who will be covering the sizable wideouts.
“They have a very big set of physical wideouts, but we’re looking forward to that,” Speed said of Clemson. “We’re planning on all of us using our size and ability to match and play their receivers the best we can.”
Speed, a possible starter who only saw 39 snaps on defense last season, is Georgia’s largest cornerback at 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds. He is followed by redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo, who is 6-foot-2 and 205. Other cornerbacks Derion Kendrick, Jalen Kimber, Kamari Lassiter, and Nyland Green are all listed at 6-foot-0 or 6-foot-1.
According to Speed, the Georgia cornerbacks adjust their “approach and mindset” for each opposing receiver, whether physically big or small.
“When it comes to big receivers, you have to be more heavy, you have to be more physical,” Speed said. “[Clemson’s receivers] are big, but we’re big. So, there could be a lot of contact. Knowing the type of ball they want to throw to bigger receivers should help us and allow us to play better.”
Kirby Smart, being Kirby Smart, is particularly worried about blocking.
“The thing that concerns you is 50-50 balls and blocking on the perimeter. That’s critical to be able to block on the perimeter,” Smart said. “Getting on and off blocks, it’s critical to every football game, but it’s really critical to this game…You’ve got to be able to tackle and get off blocks. Those big [Clemson receivers] make that hard to do.”
I, being a Georgia football fan, am more concerned about what the officials allow with regard to physical coverage. Or, to phrase it more finely, how consistent said officials are in terms of what they allow with regard to physical coverage. I hope we’re not pulling our hair out as the evening progresses, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we were.