CLEMSON — What should opposing defensive coordinators expect to see out of Clemson rising sophomore Justyn Ross in the upcoming season?
If offensive coordinator Jeff Scott is correct, they will face a scary, and very difficult job.
"He's better than he was last year, which is exciting, but also a little scary,” Scott said.
When asked why it is that the Tigers have had such success in landing some of the top talent at wide receiver across the nation, Scott said he believes it begins and ends with head coach Dabo Swinney and the way he runs the program.
“Maybe it is because Coach Swinney and his recruiting talk, he gets up there and spends 30 minutes talking about no entitlement,” Scott said. “‘You are going to have earn it. I am not going to promise you anything.’ Where sometimes, the other recruiting head coaches, at other schools, are sending them text messages guaranteeing them they are going to start day one, which I think probably is not accurate.
“We don’t get kids that are looking for that. So usually the guys that we attract are the guys that are humbled, hungry, hard-working and want to get better.”
For Ross, the hard work, hungry and humble work ethic was something bred into him by a mother who served two tours in the Navy before joining the Alabama National Guard — going on 17 years.
“He reminds me a lot of Sammy (Watkins) in that regard,” Scott said. “Sammy was just kind of humble, ho-hum, no big deal. That is kind of how Justyn is. I mean, he knows what is out there, but he is not worried about that and he is really locked in, focused and just his humbled personality, he gets from his mom.”
Now his mission is to build on a freshman campaign that saw him catch 46 passes for a team-leading 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns in 15 games.
Ross announced his presence on the game’s biggest stages as a freshman, catching six passes for 148 yards with two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl and six passes for 153 yards with one touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship.
“I wouldn’t say it (his freshman performance) shocked me but it meant a lot for me to go out there and do the things that I did,” Ross said. “I’m a very humble person, but I am glad that I did do those things.”
But Ross understands there is still areas that he needs to improve -- and there is no better time to work on those areas than in spring practice.
“It’s different because you get the chance to learn a lot more during the spring,” Ross said. “When I got here in the summer, I just had to jump in and make it work the best that I could. Now I feel like I can develop a lot more.
“I have to come out here and work every day. I have to come out here with the right mindset and go full speed with everything I do.”
Now seen by the coaching staff as a leader and a veteran, even after one season in a Tiger uniform, he has taken a role in helping the talented true freshmen, Joe Ngata and Frank Ladson, understand what they need to do to have the type of success that he experienced.
“If you work hard, you are going to get on the field,” Ross said. “Coach (Jeff) Scott is probably one of the best wide receiver coaches in the nation, so he is going to develop you as a player and a person.”