CLEMSON — If you’d been paying attention, you already knew Clemson freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins was special. A five-star recruit. Moved into the starting lineup in time for the Tigers’ third practice this month, and has stayed there ever since.
Thursday night, Dabo Swinney dialed up the hype. Swinney gushed about his true freshman, building anticipation for Watkins’ debut next week against Troy.
“You can’t compare any freshmen to him. I’ve never had a freshman like him,” Swinney said. “I’ve had a lot of good players, been around a lot of really talented freshmen at Alabama and here, but never really one quite like him, as far as the whole package, the day he walked on this campus.”
Swinney praised Watkins’ size, ball skills, speed, toughness, work ethic and attention to detail, saying “he’s got the whole package.”
“He makes very few mistakes. He’s uncanny,” Swinney said. “He’s got great football instincts. It’s been something to see. You pick his notebook up, it’s got 10 pages of notes. That’s the way he is. Then he studies it. He’s a very focused young player, and that’s uncommon. He’s definitely going to be a big factor for us this year.”
'Never had a freshmen like him'
Watkins showing Swinney something he's not seen ...
Watkins leads a large group of talented freshmen who will play this fall, highlighted by wide receivers.
According to Swinney, four-star talent Charone Peake “is not far behind” Watkins; he added that T.L. Hanna product Martavis Bryant will play this fall.
“His talent is off the charts,” Swinney said of Bryant. “But he looks like a true freshman, a guy we’ve got to do a lot of coaching.”
Not so for Watkins.
“We just kind of open the box up and say go, and don’t screw him up,” Swinney said. “It’s unbelievable. You get a guy like hat, just enjoy it while you got it, give him plenty of opportunities.”
One major surprise has been Peake’s former Dorman teammate, Adam Humphries. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound prospect has been touted in the mold of Tyler Grisham, a grinder who exceeds expectations.
He has done just that, and will avoid a redshirt this fall.
“Adam is a guy we really wanted to redshirt, but he made it to where we can’t,” Swinney said. “He’s just that good. He’s as good as anybody we signed in this class. We wanted to hold him, but we feel like this guy is going to help us win the conference this year. We’re going to get him ready to play.”
Swinney also confirmed that five-star linebackers Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward will play, which was a fait accompli. But he added that the staff plans to redshirt fellow freshman ‘backers Lateek Townsend and Colton Walls, saying that B.J. Goodson, who defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had raved about, “is on the bubble” to play.
He said that the staff will prepare freshman safety Robert Smith to play, as well. Tuesday, he said that freshman defensive tackles DeShawn Williams (a D.W. Daniel product) and Grady Jarrett were likely to play, too.
Couple them with freshman tailback Mike Bellamy, freshman quarterback Cole Stoudt and freshman defensive end Corey Crawford, and you have at least 12 true freshmen who will play or are expected to play this fall.
Those freshmen will join their teammates for a “mock game” Friday at Memorial Stadium. They’ll prepare for Troy, as well as go over all aspects of game preparation from the sidelines to running down the hill.
One redshirt freshman who'll have to wait his turn is wideout Joe Craig. Swinney confirmed that Craig will be suspended three games for his role in an altercation with a female track athlete.