Was there any possibility he’d avoid punishment that included missing playing time? “Probably not,” Swinney replied.
Tuesday, Swinney was asked if Watkins could play in the season opener against Auburn before his annual media golf outing at Cross Creek Plantation.
“There’s certainly a chance anything could happen,” he said. “We’ll wait and see and talk about it further.”
Translation: if Watkins does face punishment, it could be for a quarter or a half in the Georgia Dome.
Swinney is expected to hand down Watkins’ fate before the season begins.
Watkins is going through unspecified requirements this summer laid out by Swinney following his arrest.
“The only thing I will say is he’s gone above and beyond the things required of him,” Swinney said. “I’m not surprised by that. This is a young man who’s got some rebuilding to do. He’s damaged a little bit of trust. All you can do is respond. He’s responded very well, done things we’ve asked him to do.
“And if he continues to do that, again, we’ve got a little time left before camp actually starts with some of the things we’ve asked him to do. If he continues to handle himself like he has, we’ll render the punishment.”
Last fall, Watkins authored one of the best seasons ever by a true freshman receiver. He caught 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding 33 kick returns for 826 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown at Maryland.
He was a consensus national freshman of the year, and became the third true freshman ever to be named an AP first-team All-American.
However, he was not on the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret said that he was not listed due to Biletnikoff policy that excludes players who have been arrested in the offseason.
Bourret said that Watkins would be eligible to be added to the list once his situation is resolved and plays well enough to be included.