CLEMSON — Clemson's new football-team freshmen arrived on campus, and almost immediately in a wide receivers meeting, Jeff Scott directed his group toward a specific photo. A teachable moment.
"I showed our wide receivers a picture of the sidelines in I believe 2011," Clemson's co-offensive coordinator said. "You had Sammy (Watkins) and Nuk (Hopkins), Charone (Peake), Jaron (Brown), Adam Humphries and Martavis Bryant. Six guys all on that sideline and every one of those guys are in the NFL.
"I think that says something about that culture ... we're going to have that situation."
For as many stars as Clemson has had in its wide receivers corps and for as many that are now playing on the sport's biggest stage, Scott indicated Saturday night that perhaps this 2017 group might be the most depth he has ever had at the position.
"This is the first time that I've had nine scholarship guys that I feel like can go out there and play winning football," he said. "That's exciting."
Headlining the group are junior Deon Cain, junior Ray-Ray McCloud and redshirt junior Hunter Renfrow, the hero of the national championship game when he caught the winning pass with one second remaining against Alabama. Cain is expected to replace Mike Williams, while McCloud will take over Artavis Scott's role.
But what makes this group so lethal are the people behind the top three — including the freshmen. Coaches have raved in particular about Amari Rodgers, ESPN's 12th-ranked receiver in his recruiting class.
"Just from an athleticism standpoint and also from a maturity standpoint, I know from my position, Amari Rodgers is probably one of the most mature freshmen that I've had in my eight years at Clemson," Scott said. "Just super focused. You can learn a little bit about them in the recruiting process and all that, but you can't find that out until (they) get here."
What makes Rodgers so special, Scott and Dabo Swinney both said, was the level of preparation he showed up to practice with, which began Thursday. It became clear from the first time coaches saw Rodgers on the field that he had put in extra time studying the plays before he arrived on the practice field and extra time taking notes on the computer. He asked the right questions. His command for the system became even more evident when he started running with the first string after Cornell Powell tweaked a hamstring in practice Friday.
"Shoot, man. He's way beyond where you'd think a freshman would be," Swinney said. "All of a sudden, Amari's jumping in there with the 1s and he didn't miss a beat. He's made some incredible plays. Just fun. That shows you the type of seriousness that he showed up with. It's 'OK, I've got five weeks here to learn what to do,' so he's obviously put a lot of work in. A lot of guys just show up (and think), 'Now, it's time for football.' It's too late then. I'm really pleased with his preparation."
As Clemson looks to replace the likes of Williams and Artavis Scott as 2017 officially takes off, all signs point toward Rodgers and fellow freshman Tee Higgins playing a role on the field, as well as the other contributors in what has become an instantly deep unit.
Jeff Scott knows the transition from the Mike Williams-era to the 2017 season will not occur overnight, but so far he seems pleased with the youth.
"After the first practice, the coaches get together in and are like, 'All right, how are your freshman? What do you think?'" Scott said. "This is the first time I can remember that every coach was like, ‘Yes. We hit (spot) on. This guy is exactly what we thought or even a bit more."