There were quite a few solid draft picks by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2012 NFL draft this weekend, but likely overlooked in the nine draft picks is Colorado wide receiver Toney Clemons. Clemons, who hails from New Kensington, was the Steelers second of four seventh round picks, and he might have gone undrafted if not for his final five games of his college career that saw him haul in 25 catches for 476 yards and 5 touchdowns. It put him on the radar and it didn\’t hurt that he posted a 4.4 time in the 40 yard dash at his pro day either.
When you watch Clemons on tape you see a player that can run a wide compliment of routes and is not afraid to go over the middle. He has strong hands and high points the ball very well while using good body control to do so. He has been plagued by drops though at times and that is one of the knocks he has on him. He is not afraid to mix it up while blocking on the edge however, and has been known to get too aggressive at times doing it. When you look at his full compliment of work you see a kid that just needs some consistent coaching, something he hasn\’t had at the college level.
Clemons stated in his conference call with reporters following his selection that it was just wishful thinking that the Steelers might have interest in him because of the rough career he had in college. When pressed further what he meant by that he said, “I was a transfer and every year I had a different receivers coach, every year I had a different head coach. Every year I was learning something different. I was new. I was starting over every single day, and every year. It just took me awhile to find myself. When I finally found myself in a system that had faith in me, I was able to go out there and perform.”
Clemons began his college career at Michigan playing for head coach Lloyd Carr, but Carr retired after his freshman season. He was stuck behind future NFL wide receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington when Rich Rodriguez took over and promptly switched from a pro-style offense to a spread offense. Clemons didn\’t think the new offense fit his abilities as a player best used to stretch the field, so he decided to transfer to Colorado. He was forced to sit out the 2009 season because of NCAA transfer rules and was relegated to a practice player only as a result.
When Clemons finally was able to play in 2010 he caught 43 passes for 482 yards to go along with 3 touchdowns playing for head coach Dan Hawkins. Hawkins was fired after the 2010 season and replaced by Jon Embree. The move meant that Clemons would be playing for a fourth head coach in as many seasons. The Buffalo coaching staff was also shaken up during the change and Bobby Kennedy was hired to coach the wide receivers. You can see how rough that must have been Clemons. His senior season saw him get off to a slow start as through the first eight games he only had 18 catches for 204 yards with 3 touchdowns. Luckily those final five games put him on the map.
Steelers wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery said during his press conference following the selection of Clemons that he was very, very happy to see his new receiver utilized in a lot of different situations while at Colorado, and that in those last games what stood out to him was that Clemons won a tremendous amount of contested battles, and that was something that he put a high-grading value on. Montgomery also stated that liked the unique combination of size and speed that Clemons possesses and that they were lucky to get a guy of this caliber at this time.
Clemons will likely have a strong shot to crack the Steelers 53 man roster as a 5th receiver, but he will certainly have to earn the spot in training camp. He will have to prove it on the field and will once again have yet another coach that he will have to learn from. The good news for Clemons though is that if he makes the Steelers roster as a rookie, he likely will be able to play for the same set of coaches for at least a few years going forward and I am sure having consistent coaching would make him an even better all-around receiver. He just needs some consistent coaching in my opinion and should get that now in Pittsburgh.