Scott: Tigers’ receiver Rodgers ‘practices like a pro’
By Alex Maminakis
CLEMSON — When wide receiver Amari Rodgers came to Clemson last year, coaches were quick to praise him for his maturity and willingness to learn as a freshman.
One year later, not much has changed.
“Amari Rodgers is a guy who has been on fire this spring,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott said Friday. “He’s very business-like — he practices like a pro. What I mean by that is he doesn’t look like a college guy out there. He’s a 28-, 29-year-old guy that’s going about his business.
“He’s very serious about it — it’s very important. He’s disappointed if he doesn’t do it exactly right. He’s back in there with the film watching the film after practice, just trying to be a master of the details. So, I’ve been really pleased with him.”
Rodgers caught 19 passes — fourth-best on the team — for 123 yards in his freshman season and played in all 14 of the Tigers’ games.
This fall, with the departures of Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud, Rodgers will look to step into a larger role within the Tigers’ offense along with fellow sophomore Tee Higgins. He feels like, as a position group, the wide outs can take the next step this season by staying more consistent.
“Last year, I feel like we kind of were like a rollercoaster, and this year just stay consistent, stay on top,” Rodgers said of the receiving corps. “Finish all the plays. That’s what coach Scott emphasizes — finish everything, catch every ball that comes our way.”
Finishing plays is something Rodgers takes pride in doing. He showed last season he’s willing to fight for extra yards and won’t go down easy — contrary to what his 5-9 stature may suggest to defenses.
“Me, I’m a bigger guy, like over 200 pounds, so I use my weight,” he said. “If I catch the ball, I’m trying to get north — get through guys, get every yard that I can. I played running back in high school, so I’m used to running through the tackles and stuff. If a guy comes up and tries to tackle me, I’m not running around him — I’m going to try to go through him. That’s just my DNA.”
The Knoxville, Tenn., native who is the son of former Tennessee quarterback and current Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin is also making strides in the kick-return game for the Tigers.
Rodgers returned two punts and one kickoff last season, but Clemson will need help in the punt-return game, especially, with the loss of McCloud.
Rodgers is more than willing to take over, and he even learned a bit about the job from one of his father’s former players — current Philadelphia Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor.
“In high school, that was my favorite spot — punt return,” Rodgers said. “Now that I have a chance to take over that position, it means a lot to me. I’m going to try to hold it down and probably take some to the house this year.
“(Agholor) said, ‘See it, hit it. Catch the ball and get north, because east and west does not work.’ That’s one thing that I’ve put in my head, is that when I catch it, if I see a little slight hole I’m going to hit it.”
Scott is looking forward to seeing how Rodgers fares returning punts during next Saturday’s spring game in front of an excited Death Valley crowd.
But whether Rodgers earns the starting spot at punt returner or not, the rising sophomore will undoubtedly play an important role for the Tigers in the fall with the ball in his hands.
“This will be a good opportunity to see them — to see a guy like Amari Rodgers out there catching punts in that situation,” Scott said of the spring game. “He’s done a really good job — him and (Derion Kendrick) have done a really good job in practice, done a good job in scrimmages. So now in the spring game … it’ll be great to see how those guys respond in really one of the last dress rehearsals before we kick it off next fall.”
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