CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney made official Friday night the punishment Clemson fans had waited all summer to hear.
Swinney announced Friday that sophomore wide receiver and returning national freshman of the year Sammy Watkins will miss the first two games of the 2012 season. The suspension is punishment for Watkins’ May arrest for possession of marijuana and drugs used to combat ADHD.
He will sit for the Sept. 1 opener against Auburn in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome and the Sept. 8 home opener against Ball State, returning for Sept. 15’s game against Furman.
“I told Sammy this past May that there would be a high end (number of games) and a low end, and it would be up to him as to the length of his suspension,” Swinney said in a statement. “He has done everything we have asked and then some, so the two-game suspension is the low end. He just finished his responsibilities last week and I met with Bob Arial (Watkins’s lawyer) today to make sure everything had been completed properly.”
Swinney hopes Watkins learns a lesson from his suspension.
““The game of football, or a game of football will never be more important to me than teaching young people important life lessons,” Swinney said. “I have learned that many times something that seems to be the worst thing that can happen to you can become the best thing. I know Sammy will learn from this and use this to make a difference in other people’s lives. I look forward to having No.2 back on the field soon.”
Watkins, the preseason ACC Player of the Year, accepted his punishment. He is also on the watch list for the Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards, which honor the top player in college football, and the Hornung Award, which honors the nation’s most versatile player.
“I made a mistake and realized that when this first happened,” Watkins said in a statement. “One thing we learn in this program is that there are consequences for your actions. The entire summer has been a learning experience. I am ready to get past this and look forward to September 15 when I can return to game day in Death Valley.”
The suspension could change the tenor of the much-anticipated season opener; Watkins burned AU for 10 receptions, 155 yards and two scores, holding a national coming-out party in Clemson’s 38-24 upset in Memorial Stadium last September.
He is the reigning national freshman of the year, one of only four true freshmen to be named first team Associated Press All-America and set ACC freshman records for receptions, yardage and touchdowns last fall, rolling up 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 scores.
Sophomore Adam Humphries is expected to replace him in the starting lineup, with much of the offensive burden falling on junior DeAndre Hopkins, who Swinney called the MVP of Clemson’s spring.