Justyn Ross Announces Return to Clemson After Missing 2020 Season with Spinal Injury

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 15, 2021

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The Clemson Tigers will no longer have Trevor Lawrence under center in 2021, but they received a massive boost for the upcoming season Thursday.

Wide receiver Justyn Ross announced he will return after sitting out the 2020 campaign:

Grace Raynor of The Athletic explained Ross sat out last season with a congenital fusion in his spine. He underwent surgery in June and gradually started participating in lifting and practice as the season progressed.

Ross wasted no time making an immediate impact for the Tigers, tallying 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman in 2018 for the national champions. He then helped Clemson return to the College Football Playoff national title game—only to lose to LSU—with 865 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches in 2019.

He was part of a dynamic receiving duo with Tee Higgins, both of whom Clemson missed during the 2020 campaign when it lost a regular-season game to Notre Dame before it was destroyed by Ohio State in the CFP semifinals.

Even without Lawrence, Clemson figures to be on the short list of national championship contenders in 2021 thanks in large part to quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei.

Uiagalelei played for Lawrence during games against Boston College and Notre Dame this season, throwing for a combined 781 yards and four touchdowns. He was a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings.

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Having a veteran like Ross back in 2021 will only make the young quarterback better and give the receiver an opportunity to play his way up draft boards heading into 2022.

There are a number of potential first-round picks at wide receiver in this draft, including Alabama's DeVonta Smith, Alabama's Jaylen Waddle, LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, Purdue's Rondale Moore and Ohio State's Chris Olave.

That was a crowded field for Ross to compete with, especially since he didn't play in 2020.

Returning to Clemson will give him a chance to solidify his draft status and compete for a national championship.