Sammy Watkins is Back
By Brandon Rink
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Finally done serving his two-game suspension, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins will see the field Saturday against Furman.
College football, Clemson star sophomore receiver Sammy Watkins is back, much to the dismay of defensive coordinators across the ACC, and this week’s opponent, the SoCon’s Furman Paladins (0-2).
With the lightweight opponent this week, Clemson coaches are taking the big offensive addition in stride.
Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris recalled a conversation mid-game of the 52-27 win over Ball State last week.
“Yeah, I talked to Sammy. I don’t know if he could start for us right now,” Morris said with a smile. “That’s what I asked him after the game.”
At his weekly press conference, Dabo Swinney told of a light-hearted jab he had for the stud sophomore in meetings this week.
“I said, ‘Alright, Sammy. We’re 2-0. Don’t mess it up,’” Swinney said. “He just kinda grinned. I would think you would see him pretty early and show up pretty soon [on Saturday].
“I don’t think it will take him long to get going.”
Watkins’ response to the two-game suspension for his May arrest has been regularly lauded by his coaches throughout the offseason into fall camp, and that hasn’t stopped since Clemson hit the field for game-action.
“Sammy’s done a great job of helping those younger guys out,” Morris said. “Really being a coach out there. It was good to see him on the sidelines really communicating with those guys and communicating with Tajh [Boyd].
“Sammy was coming up to me during the course of the game and telling me things he was seeing. Those are things you really like to see, and obviously, we know what kind of player Sammy Watkins is and what he’s going to add to this offense.”
What may very well have made Watkins’ missed time addition by subtraction for the Tigers is the emergence of junior receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins leads the ACC with four touchdown catches, averaging 112 yards on just about 12 receptions per game in the no-huddle scheme. He’s approaching 2,000 career receiving yards (with 13 touchdowns) in just a little over two seasons of play. But like most receivers in college football last season, his solid sophomore campaign was overshadowed by Watkins.
Among the “younger guys” as Morris called them, high school teammates and dueling sophomores Adam Humphries and Charone Peake relished the extra playing time as well, with Humphries third on the team in receiving yards (66), and Peake second in receptions (11).
When you have time, say a prayer for the Furman secondary, ranking 90th in pass defense in the FCS, and facing a 20th-ranked Clemson offense lining up Hopkins on one side and Watkins on the other now. Oh yeah, and the ACC’s leading rusher (Andre Ellington, 134.5 yards per game) will be in the backfield as well.
If they have a hope, it’s that the Tigers are coming off their closest game in school history against an FCS opponent, edging Wofford 35-27 last season, and the former SoCon power Paladins trailed by five points headed into the fourth quarter at The Swamp last season. Returning running back Jerodis Williams rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the 54-32 loss to the Gators.
But really, the only question here is if Clemson is caught looking ahead to the primetime showdown in Tallahassee next week.
Time / Place / TV: 3:00 ET / Memorial Stadium, Clemson, SC / RSN
Furman Players to Watch (2012 stats): RB Jerodis Williams (183 rushing yards and two touchdowns), QB Reese Hannon (255 passing yards and four touchdowns), WR Will King (205 receiving yards and two touchdowns), LB Mitch McGrath (10 tackles per game, 2.5 for loss, and one interception), LB Matt Solomon (11.5 tackles per game).
Stats to Watch: Points, Sammy Watkins’ final line, Clemson rush defense (98th nationally), Number of snaps for Tiger starters.
Pick: Clemson 59 Furman 17