Clemson will be without one of its top offensive players in 2020.
During a call with reporters on Monday, Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney announced that wide receiver Justyn Ross — one of the most talented at his position in the entire country — will be out for the season. Swinney said that doctors are “very concerned” about Ross, and there’s a chance Ross may never play again.
Swinney explained that Ross will undergo surgery on Friday to address a “congenital fusion” in his neck and spine. Back in March, Swinney said Ross was experiencing symptoms of a stinger, but testing later revealed a more serious condition — one Ross was born with but unaware of, Swinney said. Ross is also dealing with a bulging disc.
Swinney said Ross feels “fine,” but the condition comes with the risk for further injury.
“He has never had any issues with this. He had never known about it,” Swinney said per Rivals.com. “Basically he caught a slant pass and got hit and went down. He was very slow to get up. He had stinger symptoms, numbness. He didn't practice the rest of the day and was fine on the sideline (this spring)."
Swinney said Ross will “hopefully” be healthy by January, at which point he will have a choice to make: stay at Clemson or enter the NFL draft.
Ross, a five-star recruit in Clemson’s 2018 class, burst onto the scene as a true freshman, catching 46 passes for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns. He had two massive performances in the College Football Playoff. He first had six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the semifinal win over Notre Dame. He then had six receptions for 153 yards and another score in the title game victory over Alabama.
My god Justyn Ross pic.twitter.com/m4PYTOgn5I
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) January 8, 2019
As a sophomore, Ross registered 66 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns. Entering 2019, he was expected to be Trevor Lawrence’s top target now that Tee Higgins has moved on to the NFL.
Though Ross won’t be available, Lawrence still has plenty of talent around him. Star running back Travis Etienne opted to return for his senior season. Wideout Amari Rodgers (104 career catches) did as well. Alongside Rodgers, sophomore Joseph Ngata will be in line for more targets.
A five-star 2019 recruit, Ngata caught 17 balls for 240 yards and three scores last fall. Frank Ladson, another highly regarded 2019 recruit, should also be in the mix after catching nine passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman.
Swinney also mentioned fifth-year senior Cornell Powell, true freshman E.J. Williams and redshirt freshman Brannon Spector as potential contributors. Williams, an early enrollee who Swinney compared to Ross, participated in spring practice.
Clemson announced last week that it will welcome football and basketball players back to campus for voluntary activities beginning June 8.
“Student-athletes may return back to the Clemson area June 1 while undergoing a period of social and physical distancing — seven days at home prior to return to the area, and seven days in the Clemson area,” the school said in a press release.
“Once this period is complete without symptoms, the student-athletes are eligible to begin pre-participation physicals with Clemson Sports Medicine. This physical includes a test for COVID-19, as well as an antibody test. Student-athletes must also complete a daily screening before entering facilities.”
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