Traditionally, Clemson’s football and track & field programs have enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement in terms of sharing two-sport athletes.
Beneficial to football in that speedsters with both gridiron and track credentials - like former Tiger standouts C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford - might tend to view Clemson as an attractive option for combining both pursuits.
And beneficial to track, when an athlete like Ford - who, now, along with Spiller, is plying his trade in the NFL - elevates the program by winning the NCAA Championship in the 60m dash, as he did in 2009.
Since several current Clemson football players - prominent among them, freshman All-American wide-out Sammy Watkins - had championship track careers in high school, their inclusion on the roster could have a big impact on a men’s track team that’s talented but exceedingly young.
“At this point he (Watkins) doesn’t figure into our plans,” said Clemson Director of Track & Field Lawrence Johnson. “I haven’t gotten any indication from the football staff that he’s coming out for the season. That’s to date, so that could change. But at this point we don’t have any indicators that he’s coming out for the indoor season, at least.
“But he’d be a welcome addition if he did. He’s certainly an accomplished track & field athlete, as well as a football athlete. He would really bolster our roster immediately. So no word as of yet, but hopefully we’ll get some word before long, and maybe that word will have him joining us at some point in the season.”
Since the football program has a first-year offensive coordinator in Chad Morris, and will soon name a replacement for departed defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, it’s understandable that the two coaching staffs will need to renegotiate their relationship with respect to sharing talent.
“It’s all kind of contingent on their philosophies, and how they want their off-season training to go, and how much they need those guys,” said Johnson. “I haven’t had an opportunity to sit down with Coach (Dabo) Swinney and his staff, just yet, but, hopefully, I will in the near future, and we can get an understanding and I can get their viewpoint on the direction they want to take those dynamic athletes.”
Johnson does know that Watkins has previously expressed interest in running track at Clemson.
“From what I understand, he was very interested in running track here,” said Johnson. “A lot of times with these young guys, they need a couple or three weeks break after football season. This football season was particularly successful, and the more successful your football team, the longer the season is, of course.
“So, many of these guys need a little bit of a break, just kind of being students and getting the semester established strong academically. Then, maybe, they’ll come out. Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to sit down with Coach Swinney and his staff here in the next week or so, and discuss the plans for those athletes, and see where we‘re going to go with it. But today there’s no word or timeline set for that.”
Johnson believes that if Watkins did decide to join the track team, he’d compare favorably with Ford and Spiller.
“We followed him through his high school career, and he’s as good as they get in terms of track & field and sprinting,” said Johnson. “He comes from Florida, which is a great track state. He ripped it up pretty good, and he’s well-known throughout the track circles. He’s an outstanding sprinter and has run some fantastic 200s and 100s. He definitely has the goods, and I’d put him in the same category as I’d put Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller.”
Johnson is also hoping for the eventual services of wide-receiver Joe Craig, and freshman running-back Mike Bellamy, both of whom have faced disciplinary sanctions.
“We hope to get Joe Craig out and Mike Bellamy, too,” said Johnson. “Mike’s a very accomplished track & field athlete, but there are some things he needs to do to satisfy the football coaches over there, before he can come out. And there are a number of guys who maybe don’t necessarily have a high school background in track, but definitely have some wheels. They’re all welcome, and I’d find a spot for all of them.”