CLEMSON – Just call ’em the Fab Four.
Clemson wide receivers Ray-Ray McCloud, Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Trevion Thompson – first-year players all – were expected to get some early playing time this season, but their contributions have likely exceeded expectations.
“I’m really pleased with the development of those four guys,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s four guys who are going to continue to impact the team this year.”
That impact should continue Saturday night when the Tigers host Boston College for homecoming. The Eagles have the nation’s top-ranked rushing defense, which may prompt quarterback Deshaun Watson to test the airways with greater frequency.
The absence of junior receiver Mike Williams, who has been sidelined since suffering a neck injury in the Tigers’ season opener, combined with inconsistency from upperclassmen Germone Hopper and Charone Peake, has increased the need for the Fab Four to contribute early.
Suffice to say the group has responded, with each contributing big plays that have helped propel the Tigers to an unblemished start and No. 6 national ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll.
–McCloud was the star in the Tigers’ season opener, with eight receptions for 80 yards in a win against Wofford;
–Renfrow had just one catch against Louisville on Sept. 17, but it was a big one – a 32-yard touchdown reception;
–Thompson had three receptions, two of which resulted in first downs, for 47 yards in Saturday’s win against Georgia Tech, including a career-long 33-yard catch;
–Cain also logged his “breakout” game against the Yellow Jackets, setting career highs with five catches for 96 yards, including a leaping catch down the right sidelines on a pass from back-up quarterback Nick Schuessler.
A 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Tampa, Florida, Cain was nominated for Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Week based on his performance. He wasn’t voted the honor, but more notoriety may be on the way for Cain and his three young comrades.
Through the Tigers’ first five games, four of Clemson’s top six wide receivers are freshmen.
“All four of the young guys are stepping up in our offense,” Cain said. “I am really happy for everyone that we are finally out there making plays together. We want to show everybody in the world that Clemson’s offense is the most explosive offense out here.”
The quartet has combined to log 483 snaps, and Cain and McCloud have each started a game.
Cain has 11 receptions for 166 yards, and his 15.1 yard average per catch is best on the team among receivers with at least five receptions.
He’s hopeful that his effort in the Georgia Tech game may repeat itself time and again this season.
“It feels great,” Cain said. “Once you make one big play, you want to go out there and make another one.
“We are more balanced, and as we get into the season we know we can run and throw the ball. We have come together as a team and we are trying to stay consistent; that’s the main thing we want to be on the field.”
So far so good.
“Looking at our offense and the talent that we have, there is no way we can say that we have reached our full potential,” Cain said. “We know what we’re capable of. If we keep progressing each week, we will get there.”