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College Football: Even without Justyn Ross, Clemson's receiving unit is still one of the nation's best

The Clemson Tigers had one of the nation’s best quarterback-wide receiver connections of the 2019 season in the form of Trevor Lawrence and Tee Higgins. Both players finished the season among the top five at their respective positions in terms of PFF overall grade, and they were the second-most valuable duo in college football behind only Joe Burrow and 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner Ja’Marr Chase.

Higgins went on to be selected 33rd overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Clemson and Lawrence still had Justyn Ross, a wideout who was seemingly ready to step right into Higgins’ shoes and continue where the QB-WR duo had left off. Then disaster struck — just over a week ago, it was found that Ross had a spinal issue that would require season-ending surgery.

[Editor’s note: Subscribe to PFF ELITE today to gain access to PFF’s Premium Stats and new Player Grades experience in addition to the 2020 NFL Draft Guide2020 Fantasy Rookie Scouting ReportPFF Greenline, all of PFF’s premium article content and more.]

Ross was ranked seventh on PFF’s list of the top wide receivers returning to college football. He was also the 10th-most-valuable player at the position since 2018, according to PFF WAA, and he was set to join forces with Trevor Lawrence to form the second-most-valuable returning QB-WR connection, behind only Justin Fields and Chris Olave of Ohio State.

For any other program, losing a player like Higgins would be a gut punch, and the sudden news of losing a player like Ross would be the left-hook finisher that would leave the receiving unit down and out. 

But that’s not the case for the Clemson Tigers, as even with the loss of Higgins to the NFL and Ross to an unfortunate injury, Clemson still has one of the best receiving units in college football.

THE NEW WR1 AND WR2: JOE NGATA AND FRANK LADSON JR.

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