An old guy, a walk-on and the quarterback's roommate take the football field . . .
Say hello to Clemson's starting receivers.
For the first time since 2010, the Tigers don't have a 1,000-yard wideout. Nor do they have a slam-dunk first-round pick among the group preparing to play Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.
#WRU has temporarily turned into #UnheraldedU.
Clemson might not have a Sammy Watkins or DeAndre Hopkins this season. Or an injured Mike Williams, for that matter. But what the Tigers do have is the deepest receivers group co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott has had since arrived at Clemson in 2008. Charone Peake, Hunter Renfrow and Artavis Scott start, but seven players have 20 or more catches -- a first under coach Dabo Swinney.
That includes tight end Jordan Leggett, who leads the team with seven touchdown catches.
"Football players come in all shapes and sizes," Jeff Scott said. "They don't have to look like Sammy Watkins or Nuk Hopkins. There's not a superstar that stands out among the group, but you can trust every one of those guys. We had three or four games this year where our seventh receiver played 25 or more snaps. That's unheard of.
"But the way we talk about it in our room is most defenses have 1.5 corners they trust, so they're not going to exchange a lot of depth throughout the game. We're going to use that. It's a 10-round fight and in that second half, our guys are going to be a little more fresh than those DBs and make those plays."
Williams was supposed to be the headliner this season after gaining more than 1,000 yards in 2014. But he was injured in Week 1 against Wofford after running into the goal post following a touchdown catch. Williams broke a bone in his neck and was done for the season. His injury galvanized the receivers room, already one of the closest groups on the team.
"We had one of our brothers go down, and we knew we had to come together and pick him up and show we can do it for him," Artavis Scott said.
Many wondered how Clemson would cope. Clearly, quarterback Deshaun Watson found a way to manage.
The old guy
Start with Peake. Signed in the same class as Watkins in 2011, Peake was a five-star prospect who sat behind Watkins and Hopkins, then had a knee injury affect what would have been his breakout 2013 season.
But once Williams got hurt, it was incumbent upon Peake to step up and become the deep threat the Tigers so desperately needed. Peake ranks second on the team with 44 catches for 617 yards and five touchdowns.
The "old man" of the receivers is 23.
"Every day, all I hear is old man jokes," Peake said.
Jeff Scott provides most of the ribbing, teasing Peake that he had his first official visit to Clemson in 2005. "Sometimes he says, 'I was a freshman and he was a senior here,' " Peake said. "They're going to be hurt when I'm gone, though."
Then there's Renfrow, who had no FBS scholarship offers out of high school. Ranked the No. 6 outfielder in the state of South Carolina, he could have played baseball somewhere. But he was determined to play football at Clemson and walked on in 2014, staring down a host of four- and five-star talent.
"I think the first practice I dropped about eight or nine balls. I was nervous," Renfrow said.
This past spring, Jeff Scott said Renfrow was the toughest receiver to cover one-on-one. Renfrow ended up starting nine games this season and made clutch touchdown receptions against Louisville, NC State and Oklahoma. In all, he has 26 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns.
The QB's roomie
Then there is Artavis Scott, who leads the team in receptions (89) and receiving yards (868) and made first-team All-ACC. He is roommates with Watson, and in the preseason gave a tour of their apartment for a video on the Clemson website that resembles MTV's "Cribs."
Fun fact: The two are extremely neat. And Scott likes Chips Ahoy! cookies.
That they have great chemistry comes as no shock. But Scott did surprise many when it was revealed after the ACC championship game that he played in six games with a torn meniscus. He believed he had no other choice, not with Williams out. Not with Ray-Ray McCloud hobbled in November with a knee injury of his own.
So Scott played, racking up the second-highest receptions total in a season in Clemson history.
"The team that we had, the brotherhood that we have and the love for each other, I knew if we came together as one, we'd go undefeated," Scott said.
The starting trio has had major help. Leggett has been an integral part of the offense, finally living up to the expectations set for him when he arrived. Swinney used to call him a "sometimer" because he would only sometimes practice hard and play hard.
But in 2015, Leggett became a finalist for the Mackey Award and is third on the team with 35 catches for 447 yards to go with all his touchdown catches.
McCloud, a freshman, is another player who has stepped up, with 28 receptions for 244 yards in 11 games. You can find him pregame unleashing some serious dance moves while going over his warm-up routes, his dyed blond hair a surefire standout.
But the best dancer of them all is Germone Hopper, whose second role is as dance instructor to Swinney.
"He's helped [Swinney] out a lot," Peake said. "You see how Dabo has improved a lot on his dabbing this year?"
Even without suspended receiver Deon Cain against Oklahoma in the Capital One Orange Bowl, the Clemson receivers were just fine. And they believe they will be just fine come Monday.
"We've got a strong group," Artavis Scott said. "We're deep. We knew we had a lot of players who can go out there and play ball."
Maybe even one more.
— Coach Jeff Scott (@coach_jeffscott) January 1, 2016
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who has been lobbying to get into goal-line packages, finished with one 31-yard reception on a fake punt. His lone catch was longer than catches made by McCloud and Leggett.
"Guys like Charone Peake, Artavis Scott, guys who were recruited to come be the guy, in order to go with that rotation, you have to share some reps, and those guys haven't batted an eye," Jeff Scott said. "They're the first ones down there to celebrate when the other guy goes in and makes a big play. It speaks a lot for those guys' attitude and work ethic. We've said every year whenever we've lost guys from time to time, 'Hey, next guy up.' Really, there's not been any concern because of the depth that we've been able to play with."