CLEMSON — At this rate, Sammy Watkins might need to use some of his bowl travel money to buy himself a new trophy case. Awards roll in by the day for Clemson’s standout freshman receiver. Wednesday, Watkins was named Sporting News’ national freshman of the year, and was also named the nation’s top freshman by ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay.
He was also named as a first-team All-American by the Associated Press, joined on the first team by junior tight end and John Mackey Award winner Dwayne Allen. Senior defensive end Andre Branch was a third-team selection, giving Clemson three AP All-Americans for the first time since 1991.
Watkins, named as the all-purpose player, s the first true freshman in ACC history be named a first-team AP All-American and the first at any school since Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson was honored in 2004. Allen is the first Clemson tight end to make first-team AP All-American since Bennie Cunningham in 1974.
This marks the first time Clemson has had two first-team AP All-Americans in the same year.
This is the third straight year Clemson has had a first-team AP All-American, the longest stretch in school history.
““For Dwayne and Sammy to achieve the honor of being an All-American, I just found out as I walked off the field – that’s a huge accomplishment for them, for this program and for this university,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “When you go out and recruit and say, we do produce All-Americans. Here’s living proof of it right here.
“I think that’s a credit to all those offensive players. Without those guys up front (offensive linemen), without Tajh (Boyd), without the help of Andre (Ellington) and those guys, that wouldn’t have been possible. I think they’d be the first ones to tell you that’s a team award. “
It is the latest in a series of honors for Watkins. He was named a first-team All-American by Rivals.com, and also won Rivals.com and College Football News’ national offensive freshman of the year honors. He was also the ACC’s Rookie of the Year. He was also the only freshman on Pro Football Weekly’s All-American team.
With the Orange Bowl remaining, Watkins has 77 receptions for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns, all ACC freshman records. Those totals lead all FBS freshmen nationally. He has also set single-season Clemson records for receptions and receiving yardage, and can break Rod Gardner’s single-season touchdown record with a score in the Orange Bowl.
Watkins was involved in a minor controversy this week, when his name appeared (along with his brother Jaylen, a Florida defensive back, and players from South Florida and West Virginia) on a flyer promoting a Christmas party at a restaurant in Fort Myers. Clemson sent the promoter a cease-and-desist letter, and it is not expected to affect Watkins’ Orange Bowl eligibility.
“I think Sammy’s doing great,” Morris said. “He had two great days of practice. I don’t know how he got linked in with all that, but I think it’s behind us now. They addressed it before it got very big and it could put anyone in jeopardy.”
Morris said Watkins could be more involved in the running game on wide receiver sweeps, especially with freshman tailback Mike Bellamy, Clemson’s No.2 rusher this fall, suspended for the game.
On using him more in the running game in the Orange Bowl (on WR sweeps, etc):
“You’ve got to involve Sammy in the running game. And I think we’ve done that some more this year, to take pressure off of our running backs. Especially when Andre (Ellington) was out, Andre was hurt. He’s got to be a threat.”