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The next great Clemson wide receiver?

With Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud off to the NFL, Tee Higgins finds himself well-positioned to become the primary target in the Clemson passing game for the next couple years. Higgins and Hunter Renfrow head into 2018 as the two leading candidates for starting positions at wide receiver for the Tigers. But with Higgins just a sophomore, Clemson can look forward to at least two more seasons of watching this young phenom develop.

The 6-4 Higgins made the choice to focus on becoming a wide receiver at Clemson instead of trying to make it in college basketball. This coming season will be Higgins’ first big test as a leading contributor in the Tigers offensive unit – as well as a chance to become one of the ACC’s breakout players.

 

Solid start

Higgins got a taste of what’s ahead last fall, making 17 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games as a true freshman. After playing sparingly through much of the season, with eight catches in Clemson’s first eight contests, Higgins showed his first glimpses of excellence in November against The Citadel. Higgins caught a pair of touchdown passes on his way to a six-catch, 178-yard performance against the Bulldogs.

On the first score, Higgins redirected in the end zone and caught a deflected ball before it hit the ground. The second touchdown against The Citadel was an even more spectacular grab. Higgins made a one-handed play along the left sideline, bringing the ball in with his left arm after holding off his defender with his right arm. Higgins made the catch staggering, but managed to collect himself before going out of bounds. The freshman then raced to the end zone directly down the sideline, leaving his defender along the way.

Higgins was the highest-rated prospect in Clemson’s 2017 signing class – a consensus 5-star who received rave reviews from recruiting analysts for his size, speed, catching ability, and potential to make big plays. Along with his 6-4 height, Higgins is a smooth runner who can outlast cornerbacks in a race with his long strides if he can get behind them.

 

No injury concern

Higgins suffered an ankle injury in Clemson’s CFP semifinal loss to Alabama in January, but won’t be limited by that injury when camp comes around in August. Gaining a more thorough understanding of Clemson’s schemes and various pass routes will be paramount to Higgins’ growth, as well as the long-term potential of the Tiger offense the next couple seasons. With Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson, and Trevor Lawrence throwing him the ball, Higgins and his wide receiver teammates couldn’t ask for a better unit of quarterbacks to help prepare them.

A big area of improvement for Higgins – both as a young college player and as a potential pro prospect in the coming years – is his blocking.

Although he’s smaller, at approximately 200 pounds, than some NFL wide receivers of his height, Higgins can use his length to gain leverage as a blocker if he can gain the technique. If Higgins can demonstrate the desire and skill to be an effective run blocker as well as a productive receiver, his prospects for the NFL Draft – perhaps as soon as 2020 – are high. And in the meantime, with his playmaking ability, Higgins can become the next elite Clemson wide receiver as well.