CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Renfrow expects duel of heavyweights
CLEMSON — Hunter Renfrow had only two catches in third-ranked Clemson’s opening season 56-3 victory over Kent State last weekend.
However, it was the first of the receptions that drew the largest cheer of the day from the crowd celebrating the Tigers’ 2016 national championship. Yet for the hero of last year’s national championship game, whose touchdown reception with a second remaining capped the Tigers’ come-from-behind victory over Alabama, the standing ovation was a complete surprise.
“It’s funny,” Renfrow said. “I was thinking Deon (Cain) had like a 70-yard touchdown and they clapped, and then I got like a 3-yard catch and getting a standing O. So that was pretty cool. It was awesome.”
From former walk-on to a starter and fan favorite, Renfrow has yet to find a moment that is too big for him because he has always played the game like every play is the final one.
“For me it’s just playing every play like it’s the game-winner. Just playing every play like it’s the last,” Renfrow said. “You’d rather have one good catch in a critical situation than five catches that don’t mean anything.”
His two receptions in the Tigers’ opening game were more of a statement about the competition than his receiving ability.
“We only throw it to Renfrow when it’s like a critical down or something,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’ll find Renfrow some more along the way — he’ll catch a few passes.”
But you will not find Renfrow complaining about the lack of touches he had in opening game.
He understands that if the Tigers are going to repeat their success of the last two seasons, they must use games like last Saturday’s to develop depth while they have a chance.
“It’s a credit to our coaching staff and how they went out and got a bunch of talented guys. We have a lot of depth, and that’s something that’s going to help us this year — maybe more so than last year,” Renfrow said. “Just being able to roll fresh guys in. The season’s long, so you never know who’s going to get injured and so it’s good to have a bunch of guys that are getting experience and are able to go out there and perform.”
But be sure “those critical downs or something” will increase significantly Saturday night as Clemson hosts the Auburn Tigers at 7 o’clcok (ESPN) inside Death Valley.
Renfrow does not have to think back far to understand how big of a challenge the Auburn defense will present for the Clemson offense. Last season, the Auburn defense held Clemson to 19 points and only 399 total yards of offense, the low totals for the 2016 season.
“We watched the McGregor-Mayweather fight the other day and I guess that one didn’t go the distance, but it felt like a heavyweight matchup where we were just fighting until the end,” Renfrow said. “Both teams had great players, and I just remember you had to play every play like it was the last one because every single play made a difference in the game.
“We’re going to be challenged this week in Auburn. Last year, we did start a little rocky. But that’s fall camp for you. A lot of guys putting in a lot of work to get ready and it’s a good thing for our offense, just knowing where our mentality is. We’re not resting on last year’s laurels and we’re ready to go this season.”
Renfrow knows the game is big.
“Anytime you have Death Valley in the nighttime it’s exciting -- big game,” Renfrow said. “From just an offense, defense, team standpoint, we’ve played a lot of big games the last couple of years. But for us, it’s just worrying about Clemson. Watching a lot of the SEC-ACC games this (past) weekend and thinking, dang, the ACC we’ve got to step up. And this is a big weekend for that.”