CLEMSON — Ray-Ray McCloud has already announced he will not be back to Clemson in 2018 and now Deon Cain is following suit. It is official: two of the Tigers’ top receivers will not return to the football team for their senior seasons.
As first reported by ESPN, Clemson confirmed Wednesday that Cain will be leaving the program early, a move that comes as no surprise.
The junior receiver led the Tigers with 734 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 58 catches a year after he was tapped to fill the void star receiver Mike Williams left behind.
Cain statistically did not have the year many projected from him, but his numbers were still strong and Clemson’s offense was more run-heavy this year under quarterback Kelly Bryant than it was last year under Deshaun Watson. A native of Tampa, Fla., Cain made his mark as Clemson’s most lethal down-field threat and he averaged 12.7 yards per catch. His longest touchdown of the season was a 61-yarder against Kent State. While he was not as vocal or outgoing as many of his teammates, Cain kept his focus and grinded his way through the season quietly. Once defenses figured out what he was capable of, they started to attack him differently.
“(The 61-yarder against Kent State) is the first play that they watch every time they turn on the video to start the week against us. We’ve got a lot of Cover 2 over there in the boundary, more than they’ve shown in the past,” co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott said earlier this season. “He’s made some nice plays and then he’s had some that he’s missed ... you go back and correct.”
As it stands now, Cain is projected to land as a mid-round pick, perhaps somewhere between rounds three and five. He was third-team All-ACC this year.
“Here’s a guy that played quarterback in high school, so two-and-a-half years now playing wide-out, and he’s made some huge plays in big moments, the national championship being one of them last year,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s just matured a ton. ... I’m proud of him.”
With McCloud and Cain gone, the receiving game is in the hands of Hunter Renfrow, who will be a redshirt senior and who guaranteed he will be back next season. Renfrow joked he had “too much golf” and “too much hunting” to do in the spring to leave early for the NFL.
Renfrow will be joined by Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers, who gained valuable experience as freshmen and who will be called upon along with T.J. Chase and Diondre Overton in 2018.
As for Cain, he certainly has the athletic makeup to make a difference on an NFL team.
"I mean at the end of the day, I’m versatile," he said. "I can do anything at the end of the day: deep ball, whatever you want. I just want to execute for my teammates at the end of the day and just keep on making plays."