Clemson leading returning wide receiver Justyn Ross will miss the 2020 season due to a congenital fusion condition of his neck and spine that will require surgery. Tigers coach Dabo Swinney announced Monday that Ross will undergo a procedure on Friday after X-rays revealed the condition.
Ross initially suffered what appeared to be a stinger injury during spring practice in March. At the time, the injury was not believed to be serious, and Ross did not exhibit any notable symptoms of a larger problem. According to Swinney, Ross was born with the fusion condition and has had a history of stingers.
The junior has been one of Clemson's top wideouts for the past two seasons. He led the team with 66 receptions a season ago and finished 2019 with 865 yards and eight touchdowns. His breakout performances in the College Football Playoff as a freshman launched him into the conversation for one of college football's top pass catchers.
With Tee Higgins gone to the NFL, Ross was going to be counted on as a major piece of Clemson's offense in 2020. Running back Travis Etienne is now the leading returning receiver in terms of catches with 37.
However, Clemson does have plenty of options out wide, including veteran Amari Rodgers. Sophomores Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson Jr. are also big-bodied like Rodgers who could step up and be bigger parts of the passing offense. Both Ngata and Ladson had three receiving touchdowns a year ago.
Swinney added that Ross will have a choice after the season as a draft-eligible junior to make a run at the 2021 NFL Draft as he may still be one of the top available wideouts despite the condition. Ross was projected to be drafted in the top half of the first round as a recent CBS Sports mock draft had him going No. 13 overall to the Chargers. If he chooses to return to school, the receiver will likely take a medical redshirt in 2020 and retain two years of eligibility.