CLEMSON -- Maybe Clemson receivers will have no problem creating separation from defensive backs this fall, but in preseason camp they are struggling to create any distance from themselves.
With two starting receiver positions open alongside leading returning pass-catcher Jacoby Ford, the Tigers have yet to attach the label of starter to any other wideout.
During the opening of camp it seemed Marquan Jones was making a push. Over the last several days, redshirt freshman Jaron Brown has made an impression. During each practice it seems there is a new receiver du jour.
While Clemson coach Dabo Swinney stressed evaluations must accelerate to begin creating continuity, the receivers seem to have immunity from such a timetable.
"It may be a committee," Swinney said. "Marquan has been extremely consistent. He's learning how to play fast. Jaron Brown is a guy that keeps jumping out.
"We're tracking as much as we can."
Entering camp, junior Terrence Ashe was listed as the starter over Brown at the Z position.
At the X position, where Clemson favors size, 6-5, 210-pound junior Xavier Dye entered as the starter listed above Brandon Clear -- who is out with cracked rib -- and Brandon Ford.
Jones is listed as Jacoby Ford's backup.
While Dye and Ashe are experienced, Jones and Brown have greater upside.
Jones (5-11, 190) reportedly ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash this summer.
He has a 35-inch vertical jump, and showed good body control this spring adjusting to slightly errant passes.
Jones, a sophomore, said he has spent most of camp working at Ford's usual position, though if Ford, still dealing with a nagging hamstring injury, was healthy Jones figured to move around to various positions.
"I can be an intermediate guy, a deep guy, a possession guy whatever I can do to help the team," Jones said.
Brown (6-2) has good size, is a creative route runner, a long-strider who can sneak behind defenses.
True freshman Bryce McNeal -- a national top 10 wide receiver prospect -- might have the most upside of any player in the group. He is a fluid, deep threat, but offensive coordinator Billy Napier said he is likely too far behind in regard to absorbing concepts and strength (6-2, 170 pounds) to make an immediate impact.
While the situation remains muddled, that doesn't mean it has remained static since the spring.
"I'm pleased with the progress of the wideouts as a group," Swinney said. "That bunch has made huge strides. They have come a long ways."
Said receivers coach Jeff Scott: "We are starting to see consistency at that position that we didn't have this spring."
What is clear is this: There are a lot of catches to be replaced.
Aaron Kelly departed as the ACC's all-time receptions leader, and caught a team-best 67 passes last season. Tyler Grisham's 37 receptions but also be replaced. To replace such production, it is attention to detail Dye believes gives him an edge.
"I feel I can go out and do whatever they ask me to do," Dye said. "I have experience, knowing the playbook, things of that nature. ... You have got to know what the defenses are doing, what the quarterback is thinking."
What is the staff thinking? Dye and company remain in a holding pattern.
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