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National Title Boasts Historic Receiver Talent

By Dave Holcomb
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For the first time during the playoff era, the national championship will feature four wide receivers who have surpassed the 1,000-receiving yards mark either this year or last season.

There’s always a plethora of future NFL players on the field for college football national championships. If anything, the high school talent around the country has begun to concentrate towards the top programs in the nation during the playoff era. That means more future NFL stars featured in the national championship every season.

The title game between Clemson and LSU won’t be any different, but in this year’s title bout, at wide receiver alone, the talent appears to be historic.

For the first time during the playoff era, the national championship will feature four wide receivers who have surpassed the 1,000-receiving yards mark either this year or last season. There will also be another wideout in the Clemson-LSU matchup that in a normal year would be setting a program record for touchdowns.

Clemson is back in the title game for the second straight year looking to extend its winning streak to 30. The Tigers from South Carolina have the same two NFL-bound receivers back from last season -- junior Tee Higgins and sophomore Justyn Ross.

Higgins has presented all the tools necessary to be a star in the NFL. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he has great size, good speed and very good hands. He can beat cornerbacks deep and is great at pinpointing the ball at its highest point for a contested catch.

That makes him both a deep threat and an excellent red-zone target. That’s evident by his nearly 20 yards per catch average and 13 touchdowns this season. He also had 56 receptions for 1,115 yards.

Of course, Ross is no slouch. He played a different role this season as a sophomore, making more short catches that simply moved the chains. He had more catches than Higgins (61) but far fewer yards with only about 13 yards per reception.

However, Ross is also 6-foot-4 and more than 200 pounds, and last year, he was the Clemson receiver with 20 yards per catch. Actually, Ross was far above that average with 1,000 receiving yards on 46 receptions (21.7 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns to boot in 2018.

Together, Higgins and Ross have scored 21 touchdowns in each of the last two years, giving them 42 end zone trips during the 29-game winning streak.

That’s the wide receiver talent on only one of the sidelines for this year’s national championship. On the other side, LSU will feature a pair of wideouts with more than 1,400 receiving yards and another pass catcher with 12 touchdowns.

Sophomore Ja’Marr Chase and junior Justin Jefferson finished first and second in the SEC in receiving with 1,559 and 1,434 yards, respectively, this year. They were the only two SEC wideouts to average more than 100 yards per game. They were also the only two in the conference with more than 15 touchdowns.

Chase and Jefferson each have 18 scores. Whomever finishes with more will have the new LSU record for receiving touchdowns in a season. Whichever guy loses that race will be second in program history.

Incredibly, Terrace Marshall Jr. will be third. He has 12 touchdowns, which was the previous LSU record for receiving scores in a single season before 2019.

To put those numbers further into perspective, the LSU program record for most receiving touchdowns in a career is 26. Behind this past fall alone, Jefferson and Chase have landed themselves in the Top 10 on the LSU all-time receiving touchdowns list.

Jefferson came into this season with six career touchdowns. If he explodes for three against Clemson, he would break the program’s career receiving touchdowns record.

The junior already owns LSU’s single-season receptions record with 102 this year, and Chase can become the program’s all-time individual season receiving yards leader with 182 yards versus Clemson.

Everyone expects quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence to both become No. 1 NFL draft selections and face each other often at the next level. But the same should be said for the wide receiver talent in this national championship.

College football fans may see as many as five Clemson-LSU wideouts that will face each other for the national title excel in the NFL.