CLEMSON — Sammy Watkins already owns Clemson freshman records for receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns; after a eight-catch, 91-yard, one-score effort against North Carolina Saturday, he has 54 receptions for 819 yards and nine touchdowns, surpassing sophomore DeAndre Hopkins’ marks in all three categories set just last year.
It seems inevitable that he’ll set ACC freshman records in receiving yards and receptions, as early as this week at Georgia Tech. Watkins sits third on the ACC’s all-time yardage list, behind N.C. State’s Koren Robinson (853 yards in 1999) and Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson (837 in 2004). He’s fourth on the all-time receptions list behind Virginia’s Wali Lundy (58 receptions in 2002) and Maryland’s Frank Wycheck (58 in 1990), and Duke’s Conner Vernon (55 in 2009).
Reaching the national freshman marks seems a bit more unlikely: Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, now with the San Francisco 49ers, owns those with 134 receptions for 1,962 yards in 2007.
Watkins was hampered slightly by a strained glute muscle Saturday, but still drew double-coverage and opened up the passing game for others; Hopkins had nine receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Tajh Boyd threw touchdowns to five different receivers.
“When he’s on the field, they have to respect him and respect what he can do,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. “It definitely opened up Nuke, opened up Dwayne (Allen), he still had a day with eight catches, 91 yards. Any receiver in the country would love to have a day with eight catches, 91 yards. Eight games into this thing, that’s an average day for Sammy.”
Ellington could be limited: Junior tailback Andre Ellington took a step back Saturday, gaining only five yards on seven carries after rolling up a career-high 212 at Maryland. He suffered a sprained ankle in the first half, sending him to the locker room momentarily; he returned in the second half but yielded to DJ Howard and Mike Bellamy. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Ellington is “banged up” and could be limited in practice this week.
Leading the pack: Clemson has 626 snaps on the season (averaging 78.25 per game), leading the nation. Texas Tech is second with 614.
“We’ve got to continue to press on,” Morris said. “We still could have gone faster the other day. Now in the fourth quarter we did play a slower pace. And that cut our snap total down.
“They’re excited about (leading the nation). We shared that with them today. They were high-fiving each other. That’ s a goal we set. We want to be able to push the limits. They’re starting to see that, with the success they’re having in the second half.”
Clemson cleans up in ACC honors: Another week, another big week for Clemson in the weekly ACC football honors. Clemson had three players win player of the week honors Monday. Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd was named offensive back of the week, senior right tackle Landon Walker was named offensive lineman of the week and senior defensive end Kourtnei Brown was named defensive lineman of the week.
Boyd completed 27-of-46 passes for 367 yards and five touchdowns, tying a single-game program record, adding a rushing touchdown and finishing with 375 yards of total offense. He tied an ACC record for “touchdown responsibility” with six.
Walker graded out at 93 percent with five knockdown blocks and didn’t allow a sack; Brown had two defensive touchdowns, becoming the first ACC player since stats began being kept in 2000 to score on a fumble and interception return. He was the first Clemson player since 1954 to score two defensive touchdowns in a game, and was also named national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Foundation.