Up First: Clemson lists three wide receiver positions on its depth chart, though Chad Morris is as likely to line up with four, or two, as three.
All serve as mainstays in the offense, with the inside, or slot, receiver being the most versatile position on the field. Rising sophomore All-American Sammy Watkins returns to that position, with rising junior DeAndre ‘Nuk’ Hopkins and rising senior Jaron Brown at the other two spots.
Those three players combined for 33 starts, 184 receptions, 2,593 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago, which gives the Tigers one of the most experienced and productive returning group of wide-outs in the nation.
Watkins also took on the role of rusher, as he carried the ball 32 times and averaged 7.2 yards per carry last fall.
Both Hopkins and Watkins will be preseason Biletnikoff Award candidates, while Brown has emerged one of the team’s most reliable clutch-play performers.
The disciplinary issue resulting from Watkins’ recent arrest looms as the front-line group’s only question mark. The assumption is that Watkins will serve a suspension at some point, but Dabo Swinney has yet to indicate when or for how long.
Next In Line: The post-spring practice depth chart lists three rising sophomores as the Tigers’ backup receivers - Adam Humphries behind Watkins, Charone Peake behind Brown and Martavis Bryant behind Hopkins. Peake and Bryant – 6-3 and 6-5, respectively – are big targets with outstanding speed, and both were ranked among the nation’s elite players at their position out of high school.
Humphries, signed by Clemson as receiver after being recruited primarily as a defensive back by others, ended up catching more passes (15) than Bryant and Peake combined.
Morris said after the spring game that he considers Humphries to be one of the Tigers’ primary playmakers, and said he’ll devise ways to get Humphries and Watkins on the field together this fall.
In The Pipeline: Germone Hopper was Clemson’s lone wide receiver signee in 2012. He is expected to work initially at the slot receiver position alongside Watkins and Humphries. He excelled as a receiver, runner and kick return man at Berry Academy in Charlotte, N.C., and brings a combination of quickness, explosiveness and the ability to go get the football in the air. Over time, the coaching staff wants him to bulk up from his current 165 pounds. He recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in a knee, but is expected to be 100 percent by the time he reports to campus this summer.
Walk-on Receivers: Matt Porter, a sophomore from James Island, SC, is coming off a solid spring in which he worked his way into the playing mix, prompting Dabo Swinney to single him out as “a name to remember.” Also working at the position are Julian Patton, a junior from Rock Hill, S.C.; Andrew Maass, a sophomore from Ridgeway, S.C.; and Wes Forbush, a sophomore from Johnson City, Tenn.
More Help On The Way: Clemson has yet to secure a wide receiver commitment for its recruiting class of 2013, but is expected to sign two or more after signing just one a year ago and having Stanton Seckinger move to tight end. Top candidates include Ryan Jenkins of Marietta, Ga. (the brother of Clemson defensive back Martin Jenkins), Marquez North of Charlotte, N.C.; Laquon Treadwell of Crete, Ill.; Mike Williams of Santee, S.C.; Uriah Lemay of Matthews, N.C.; Jamaul Vickers of Tallahassee, Fl.; and Demarcus Robinson of Fort Valley, Ga.
Overall Outlook: The Tigers are loaded in pass-catching playmakers. If Peake and Bryant step up next season as consistent, reliable performers, Clemson’s corps of wide receivers will be the nation’s best.