CLEMSON – Now that it’s official that Clemson starting wide receiver Amari Rodgers will have knee surgery next week and will likely miss most, if not all, of the 2019 football season, who will step up and fill the void?
If Diondre Overton has his way, he’ll be the next man up for the Tigers.
The Greensboro, N.C., senior has waited three years for his opportunity to become a full-time starter, but with a talented young group of receivers, Overton understands that there are no guarantees.
“It could be an opportunity, but I feel bad for Amari,” Overton said. “I hope he has a speedy recovery, but it’s a next guy up mentality and, hopefully, I can come in and fill that role and do a good job.”
Rodgers, who started all 15 games for the Tigers last season, injured his right knee during practice Monday.
“It was just one of those competitive plays, a one-on-one situation and he turned the wrong way and had a little contact and fell down hard,” Overton said.
Rodgers, who had been penciled in as Hunter Renfrow’s replacement at the slot receiver position, caught 55 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns last season. He also returned 39 punts with one for a touchdown.
“(Rodgers') got a great attitude and he’s a grinder,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. “I have no doubt he’ll come back better than ever.”
Rodgers, who is the son of former University of Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin, is expected to have surgery April 5. On his Twitter account: “God gives his toughest soldiers the toughest tasks. I’ll be back better than ever, believe that.”
Overton has been working this spring at all five receiver spots. The 5-10, Rodgers was quick and powerful coming out of his breaks. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, Overton is more of a natural outside receiver, with his long strides and catch radius. Overton, however, believes he can be equally effective in the slot for the Tigers.
“I feel like I can produce matchup problems in a game with my size and length,” Overton said. “It’s not about being fast or quick, it’s about going out there and getting the job done. There’s not that much of a difference in the positions, you just have to understand the concepts and once you get it down, it’ll all come easy.”
Overton has plenty of experience, playing in 36 games with 30 catches for 425 yards and four touchdowns.
“I want to learn all the positions and be as versatile as I can, so when my name is called I’m ready to go,” Overton said.
Other candidates to fill the void include T.J. Chase, a redshirt junior, who has just 18 receptions and 29 games under his belt. Then there’s Cornell Powell and Derion Kendrick. Kendrick, who caught 15 passes for 210 yards last season, might be the most athletic of the bunch, but he has been working in the secondary this spring and could see action on both sides of the ball in the fall.
Throw in true freshmen ]Joseph Ngata, Frank Ladson and Brannon Spector and the competition for playing time will be fierce. Spector has been slowed during spring practice with a concussion.
“There are a lot of guys that get the job done,” Overton said. “Chase and Powell and a lot of the freshmen. They can all fill that role, it’s just who wants it more and who can make plays.”
Tigers, Sooners to play in 2035, 2036
Clemson will play a home-and-home series against Oklahoma in 2035 and 2036.
Oklahoma will make its Death Valley debut in September 2035, and Clemson will face the Sooners in Norman, Okla., in 2036.
Barring any postseason matchups, Clemson's 2035 game against Oklahoma will be the sixth all-time meeting between the two programs. The Tigers lead the all-time series, 3-2.
"This series against Oklahoma is yet another example of our longstanding commitment to adding another Power Five opponent to our schedule beyond our annual rivalry game with South Carolina,” said Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said.
Clemson's future non-conference schedule includes home-and-home series with Texas A&M (2019), Georgia (2029-30), LSU (2025-26) and Oklahoma (2035-36).
Next year’s non-conference opponents are Texas A&M, South Carolina, Charlotte and Wofford.