The light bulb has turned on for a number of Clemson players this spring, according to Sammy Watkins – including, the rising junior receiver himself.
“A lot of guys (are) stepping up that I didn’t see last year, even myself,” Watkins said. “I’m approaching the game and this season differently. I see other guys approaching the game actually getting committed and buying into the system.
“Guys I didn’t see making plays are actually making all the plays this spring.”
The South Fort Myers (Fla.) product rattled off names on both sides of the ball: defensive tackles Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett, D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins – defensive backs Bashaud Breeland, Darius Robinson and Travis Blanks, and he says the receiver unit as a whole has stepped it up, especially Charone Peake.
Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris had a similar sentiment Thurday on the development of Peake, saying he’s “come on,” while praising the consistency of Adam Humphries and the potential of redshirt freshman Germone Hopper.
Watkins is also seeing a defense that’s catching up with the prolific machine that is the Clemson offense.
Watkins 'way more focused' this time around
“The defense, we are battling. It’s not just a one-way thing,” said Watkins. “The defense actually wins some days. That’s a nice thing and competitive thing. I love to see the defense win sometimes.
“I don’t want to just come out and run all over them. The next team will do the same thing.”
Sticking on the defensive side, Watkins says the incoming freshmen from his home area of southwest Florida, defensive backs Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse, have a chance to make an early impact with the right mindset.
“It’s all up to how they approach the game, attack the film and just listen to the coaches,” he said. “I just told them, ‘Don’t talk to nobody. Just go about your business’…when I came into the game, I didn’t really talk to nobody.
“I focused on film and practice every day. That’s the way they got to approach it.”
The confidence especially from the five-star Immokalee, Fla. native Alexander can serve him well this season.
“He’s a guy that has a big ego, but he can play to it,” Watkins said. “I think he can actually come in here and play a lot of football. Right away.”
Watkins says his path to returning to his own freshman form is on track, after what he calls a “natural” but regrettable slide as a sophomore.
“I’m way more focused,” said Watkins. “I had a lot of things going on (last season). Just doing so much, just frustrated and not really accepting greatness. (I was) just trying to hide from everything. This year, I’m going to welcome adversity.”
Part of that frustration was the array of new defensive attention.
“I don’t think I was prepared for them to do that,” he said, “and I didn’t prepare myself. It wasn’t on the coaches – it was on me. I just didn’t prepare myself the way I should have. I didn’t approach the game the way I did my freshman year.”
With four spring practices and the spring game left, Watkins is ready to mash the fast forward button to the final round of workouts before the season.
“I just can’t wait to see what fall camp is going to be like,” he said. “Guys are getting bigger and focusing on their body – just doing their assignments.”