CLEMSON – Focused.
At receiver for Clemson, it’s the theme of the offseason for one star looking to return to glory and another with potential seemingly unlimited aiming to breakthrough.
Martavis Bryant watched the Chick-fil-A Bowl as a fan after suspension. His long road back to regaining the coaches’ trust started with a conversation with Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.
“He took some time out to talk to me right before I went home over break before the bowl game,” Bryant said. “He talked with me a little bit. It was very motivating for me to go back home and think about it and come back focused.”
The signs of change came in the spring when Swinney said he didn’t have a single complaint about the former T.L. Hanna product. Two days into camp, the 6-5 200-pound Bryant – showing out with some acrobatic catches – has ascended to a place on the first team, after starting as Sammy Watkins’ backup.
Fall camp breakdown: Day 4
Swinney, Boyd & Watkins break it down
“He’s matured off the field. He’s matured on the field,” Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “And I think he realizes how big his role is on this team. Martavis is going to do everything possible in his nature to help his team.
“I really think he’s one of these guys that will have the opportunity to leave after this year. You don’t see guys that look like him.”
Improving his stock is directly proportional to expanding his big-play game into every-down success.
The Tiger junior led the nation with a 30.5 yards per catch average on just 10 receptions. Keeping the catch numbers low was inconsistency, a distant fifth among Clemson wide receivers in snaps (245).
On the right track, Bryant won’t venture to guess his numbers, but he’s looking up.
“Sky’s the limit. That’s all I’m going to say,” he said.
Fellow junior Sammy Watkins’ goals are already out there – aiming for all of the records set by former teammate DeAndre Hopkins.
Start to finish, the south Florida product’s 2012 was a trial beginning with a two-game suspension and ending with a broken ankle on the second offensive play of the bowl game.
Through two seasons, Watkins still enters ’13 as the ACC’s active leader in receptions (6) and yards per game (83.8), overall receiving yards (1,927) and touchdown receptions (15). On the team, he has an unmatched career 7.6 snap-to-reception ratio.
Tigers focusing on Clemson, UGA in background
“There was a lot of people talk about him last year. From the time that he played, he was very productive,” Swinney said. “There was just no continuity with him. He was very inconsistent. He’s just got to stay out there.
“He’s in great shape and in a good spot mentally.”
Really in Watkins first full offseason working out, much like Hopkins last year, the third-year starter says his biggest offseason obstacle came in mentality.
“Just with my mindset. I had a lot of things going on with the off-the-field issues,” he said. “Now that’s cleared up and I’ve grown (up) and my team has taken me in as a leader. Last year I didn’t have the leader mindset and I know I do and come in to work hard to show my team that I’m going to put my best foot forward.”
Chad Morris is moving the versatile athlete around the field, at each of the three positions for receivers in his offense (field, slot and boundary) and running back. Watkins says he is expecting to touch the ball at least 12 times a game.
“Probably the same as my freshman year, I was all around the field,” said Watkins. “I kind of lacked moving around last year with teams bracketing me. But coach has done a good job of moving around.
“It’s going to be a great season to be prepared to move around and catch the ball a lot.”
The Tigers’ senior gunslinger is ready to get to work with both Watkins and Bryant and the rest of a talented group in Death Valley this fall.
“Our coaches are very excited. I’m super excited,” Boyd said. “We’ve got some dogs out there man. Some people call (receivers) frisbee-catching (dogs). They’re just some ball-catching dogs.”
College Gameday comin’ to Clemson-Georgia: ESPN college football anchor Chris Fowler termed it the “worst kept secret out there,” as the network finally and officially announced Tuesday their popular College Gameday program was headed to TigerTown for the Clemson-Georgia showdown on Aug. 31.
“These guys deserve that. It’s an honor that GameDay is coming here,” Swinney said. “It’s a huge game obviously. It’s great exposure and every time you can put that paw on national TV – it doesn’t hurt.”
The show will go an unprecedented four hours on ESPN (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET) with the crew of Fowler, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, Kirk Herbstreit, former Georgia defender David Pollack and reports from a variety of more network talents.
Clemson’s last and first opportunity at hosting College GameDay came in 2006 facing Georgia Tech. The Tigers downed the Yellow Jackets 31-7. The last time playing at a GameDay site they lost at Florida State last season, 49-37.
Georgia has a not-so-stellar 3-12 mark when the show is in town and 3-4 in road games in the show’s history stretching back to 1993.