“I talked to Sammy and said, ‘I don’t know if you could start for us right now,” Morris joked.
That’s how good Clemson’s offense has been without Watkins, who just finished a two-game suspension connected to a May arrest on drug possession charges.
The 2-0 Tigers have averaged 39 points and 527 yards of total offense per game: in other words, they’ve hardly missed Watkins.
When Watkins returns for Saturday’s 3 p.m. home game against FCS foe Furman, the real fun will start.
“I think it gives you another dimension, obviously,” Morris said. “We saw that last year. You’ve had Nuk (Hopkins), who’s had two really good games. Charone Peake had a good game, Adam (Humphries) has had a lot of catches, and I think (Watkins) is going to give you that depth.
“It allows you to put guys back to where they are as opposed to Charone Peake and Adam working together (at Watkins’ spot). Now it’s going to be (Peake) and Nuk working together. . And you’ll see Sammy back in his normal rotation. It’s going to give us a lot more depth, a lot more of our arsenal in, and make us a lot more explosive in my opinion.”
Through two games, Hopkins has 19 receptions for 224 yards and four scores; Peake has 11 receptions for 65 yards, senior tight end Brandon Ford has eight receptions for 76 yards and Humphries has eight receptions for 66 yards.
As coaches have done throughout the summer, Morris praised Watkins’ response to the suspension.
Watkins didn’t travel with Clemson to Atlanta for the Georgia Dome opener against Auburn, but was on the sidelines Saturday.
“Sammy’s done a great job of helping those younger guys out and helping those guys out there,” Morris said. “It was good to see him on the sidelines and communicating with those guys. Sammy was coming up to me in the course of the game, telling me things he was seeing. Those are things you like to see. We know the kind of player Sammy Watkins in, what he’s going to add to this offense. They’ve been playing pretty well for the first couple weeks and that’s all it is. Two good games. Big deal. What are you going to do now? To get Sammy back, it’ll give us a boost hat energizes us.”
Before the Auburn game, Watkins worked with the scout team, but worked with the normal offense last week in preparation for his return. Morris anticipates no hitches in his 2012 debut.
“The thing you’ve got to do, he’s got to get in and get his work in, and we’ve got to get him up to speed, the timing back right on a lot of things,” he said. “I anticipate Sammy playing as if he would in a normal situation. We’ve got to get some normal reps in with Sammy, he’s got to get game speed and he’ll be ready for that.”
He’ll rejoin an offense which hit on all cylinders Saturday, scoring touchdowns on six of its first seven possessions and taking a 45-10 halftime lead.
Morris said his unit simply did what it was supposed to, improved, and got a look at plenty of young players in the process.
“Really good teams dominate when they’re supposed to dominate. We talked about that all week long and just being able to come out offensively and try to set the tempo early. I think we did that,” he said. “I was pleased. The first 20 plays we scored two touchdowns and had great tempo going, you’re able to get some young guys in, that’s the other thing that stood out on film. You’re able to get some young guys in and get quality reps in, good evaluation tape on those guys.”
Especially on the offensive line, where redshirt freshman Shaq Anthony got his first career start at right tackle. Freshmen like center Ryan Norton, guard Spencer Region and tackles Isaiah Battle also saw their first game action. Morris said Norton was “head and shoulders” above his fellow reserves, adding that Anthony needed to play more physical. Starter Gifford Timothy could return from a knee injury this week.
“A lot of it was reassuring what we’ve seen in fall camp,” Morris said. “There was some promise, some of what I call flash in the pans, and they look good one play, they won’t another play. There was some promise in some younger guys. You want to see Isaiah Battle, Joe Gore, guys you saw promise in that are going to be really good players but they’re not there now. That’s reassured what we’ve been seeing in fall camp. From a mindset they’re not there yet but they’re going to be OK. They’ve got to let us coach them hard through the course of the week. As a young player that’s hard to do, they’re not used to that. It’s OK. We’re used to that. Instead of just seeing themselves in practice, they can see themselves in a game situation. And things we’ve got to get better at.”