Sizing up the ACC: Sammy Watkins-led receiver group hard to beat

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins catches a pass during the Orange-White Spring Football Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins catches a pass during the Orange-White Spring Football Game at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Chad Morris came to Clemson riding on the idea of the “smash-mouth” spread.

Well…that’s been a gradual process and he instead has made the most of talented receiver options bestowed upon him by recruiting.

The last two seasons, the Tiger offense ranks second in the ACC in pass attempts (999) and first in pass impact (302 yards per game – the best by 34 YPG) with 10 more touchdown receptions than anybody else in the conference.

Taking a look at the individual returning leaders…

Top-5 ACC Active Leaders

1. Sammy Watkins (Clemson) – 6 receptions per game/83.8 YPG/15 TDs

2. Stefon Diggs (Maryland) – 4.9 RPG/77.1 YPG/6 TDs

3. Rashad Greene (Florida State) – 4.1 RPG/58.1 YPG/13 TDs

4. Quinshad Davis (UNC) – 5.1 RPG/64.7 YPG/5 TDs

5. Jamison Crowder (Duke) – 3.6 RPG/49.5 YPG/9 TDs

And the tops last year…

2012 Returning Leaders v. FBS Opponents (Per CFB Stats)

1. Alex Amidon (Boston College) – 72 rec./101 YPG/15.4 yards per reception/6 TDs

2. Jamison Crowder (Duke) – 69 rec./82.5 YPG/14.4 YPR/7 TDs

3. Stefon Diggs (Maryland) – 51 rec./81.8 YPG/16 YPR/6 TDs

4. Michael Campanaro (Wake Forest) – 70 rec./74.1 YPG/9.5 YPR/5 TDs

5. Sammy Watkins (Clemson) – 53 rec./72.9 YPG/12.4 YPR/3 TDs

All three of Watkins’ 2012 touchdowns came against FBS teams, and just against ACC opponents, Watkins averaged a third-best 88 yards and second-best seven receptions a game during a tumultuous season.

BC’s Amidon and Duke’s Crowder came out of nowhere. Amidon racked up 68.4 percent of his career catches (78) and yards (1,210) and 70 percent of his touchdowns (7) in ’12.

Crowder upped it even more – 84.4 of the catches (76), 86.8 of the yards and 88.9 of the touchdowns (8).

Projecting the ACC WRs

(If you haven’t been around with us before, the rankings are based on production/field impact – not a straight measure of their abilities like a NFL draft board. We’re looking at not only the player’s ability, but the surrounding cast that can help him get the W's and numbers.)

1) Clemson – Sammy Watkins, Charone Peake

Outlook: Only Virginia Tech (22.2) has a less percentage of 2012 receiving yards returning than Clemson (41.1), but armed with Watkins and a generally pass-happy scheme – the Tigers should plug in the replacements with little drop-off.

2) Florida State – Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin

Outlook: Redshirt freshman and presumed starter Jameis Winston will have plenty of options this fall – led by the playmaking Rashad Greene (57 catches – 741 yards – 6 TDs in 2012). Another target to watch is the 6’5 Kelvin Benjamin, who averaged 16.5 yards per catch with four scores as a freshman last season.

3) UNC – Quinshad Davis

Outlook: Upstate product Quinshad Davis (Gaffney), after a late NCAA clearance (mid-August), set both the UNC single-game record for receptions (16) and the freshman record for total catches (61) starting the final 10 games of 2012. Back from injury, sophomore T.J. Thorpe, who totaled 960 kick return yards as a freshman in 2011, should provide a boost along with returning starter Sean Tapley (361 yards/5 TDs in 2012).

4) Miami – Phillip Dorsett

Outlook: Miami has the ACC’s top running back (Duke Johnson), but they will still throw the ball around the yard and have multiple outlets to do so. Their top-two receivers return, in Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott, who combined for almost 40 percent of Miami’s yards (38.2 – 1,354) with seven touchdowns.

5) Boston College – Alex Amidon

Outlook: The Eagles return a – by far in the ACC – best 91.7 percent of its receiving yards from last season and their top-four receivers. They are led by the aforementioned Amidon, but BC is the only ACC team that will return four wide receivers who had 20-plus catches in 2012.

6) Virginia – Darius Jennings, Tim Smith

Outlook: The Wahoos bring back a trio of upperclassmen starters for whoever wins its QB battle in Tim Smith (senior: 20 catches/405 yards/4 TDs), Darius Jennings (junior: 48 catches/568 yards/5 TDs) and Dominique Terrell (junior: 38 catches/475 yards in 2012).

7) Wake Forest – WR Michael Campanaro

Outlook: Senior Michael Campanaro is the ACC’s active leader in receptions (162) by 23 catches and is third in receiving yards (1,703). The challenge for a Deacs’ offense that struggled last year (91st in passing offense) is finding a reliable second (and third) option.

8) Maryland – Stefon Diggs

Outlook: Stefon Diggs, a five-star prospect coming in, was another one-man show in College Park despite Maryland having a linebacker at at QB by the end of the season. Diggs still managed to average 15.7 yards per reception and haul in six scores. 2012 second option Marcus Leak edged Diggs in YPR (17.1), but he is sitting out the 2013 campaign on his own accord due to “personal issues.” Incoming New Mexico transfer Deon Long will provide a boost though, after compiling 809 yards (17.2 YPR) and four touchdowns in 2011.

9) N.C. State – Quintin Payton

Outlook: In transition from pass-happy pro-style to a run-geared spread, one of the better passing offenses in recent years will take a hit replacing Mike Glennon at QB. T.L. Hanna product Quintin Payton leads the group after a team-best 798 receiving yards last season. Junior Bryan Underwood was a touchdown magnet in 2012 with 10 scores and is second among ACC active leaders in the stat (12).

10) Pittsburgh – Devin Street

Outlook: The Panthers have the top incoming receiver, by expansion, in Devin Street, who racked up 975 yards on 73 grabs. But that’s where the conversation ends for a Pitt team transitioning to a new conference with a QB competition ongoing and losing almost 50 percent of its ’12 receiving yards (48.5).

11) Duke – Jamison Crowder

Outlook: Much like the previous team on the list, Duke has the speedy top target Jamison Crowder and question marks everywhere else. After being pass-happy of late, the Blue Devils are going to a more run-centered attack in ’13.

12) Virginia Tech – Demetri Knowles, D.J. Coles

Outlook: Logan Thomas didn’t have a good year throwing the ball in 2012 (51.3 completion percentage), but he had to more with a lack of a running game. The best thing that could happen for the Hokies is an improved running game to take the pressure off Thomas and which in turn ups the passing effectiveness.

13) Syracuse – Jarrod West

Outlook: The ‘Cuse lose their top passer, top-two receivers and their offensive coordinator headed to the ACC. If they can run effectively, they will stick to it and they also have a couple go-to, non-WR options in tight end Beckett Wales (389 rec. yards/2 TDs in 2012) and running back Prince Tyson-Gulley (282 rec. yards/2 TDs).

14) Georgia Tech – Darren Waller

Outlook: Leading returning receiver Darren Waller hauled in eight catches for 162 yards (no touchdowns) last season. Six ACC teams have four wide receivers back who had more. At 6-5 and pretty fast, Waller should get a lot more looks this season, but in this offense, the ceiling is pretty limited.

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Comments » 12

twk writes:

You will be needing more than Sammy, maybe use him on defense also he sure had a lot of drops though in the big games, you have to have players to step up maybe with Mr. Peak I don't see much of a difference in this season, o line is a ? also. I see this team going 8-4 reg. season with a real heartbreaker year. lose to Nc. st. , Vt., Fla.st. and of course So.Carolina.

BrandonRink writes:

in response to twk:

You will be needing more than Sammy, maybe use him on defense also he sure had a lot of drops though in the big games, you have to have players to step up maybe with Mr. Peak I don't see much of a difference in this season, o line is a ? also. I see this team going 8-4 reg. season with a real heartbreaker year. lose to Nc. st. , Vt., Fla.st. and of course So.Carolina.

Well, they can't play VT unless they make the ACC Championship Game. We'll see. You're batting .000 on picks so far on the site it looks - http://www.orangeandwhite.com/news/20...

FlopEye writes:

Lets hope that Chad and Dabo will keep
Sammy in the games against Duke, B.C. and Wake.
This is the "perfect storm" to pad his stats.
He'll probably choke against Fla. St., Ga.,
and USC ( not So. Cal) the USC that has kicked
Clemson's butt for the last 4 years. The orange
kool-aid you folks have been fed by Dabo
will soon get sour. Sammy is a good kid with a
lot of talent, but we've seen how the "Dab"
can screw with a kids mind, i.e.,give them un-
realistic view of themselves i.e.( See Kyle Parker- or maybe Willy Korn").
I want to see Clemson be successful and only
lose the last game of the year. The state of
South Carolina needs good news, after all, we
are a national leader in infant deaths, we
are right at the bottom in education and our
state is viewed as a joke by most if the
country- Thank Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson and
Lindsey " Gramnesty" for that.
For God's sake, put a muzzle on Dabo before
the season starts. Wait until you accomplish
some great things before this clown makes
an fool of himself, as he has done countless
times.

TigerMarine writes:

Kyle Parker coming back as a millionaire and not putting in the effort was his issue. You'd think a coot would know what Korns issue was but I spell it out for those who can't put it together. We the fans over hyped Willy because of Burns success BUT your boy Lattimore was apparently mostly responsible for that so your gonna have to get more examples there troll. Ty Brandon

bigearbj writes:

why do coots feel the need to post on Clemson websites? I guess its the only way to keep their tradition going... being buttholes. Maybe one of the coots could enlighten me on their other traditions.

Clemorange writes:

I wish Sammy would hush

TigerFan95 writes:

in response to twk:

You will be needing more than Sammy, maybe use him on defense also he sure had a lot of drops though in the big games, you have to have players to step up maybe with Mr. Peak I don't see much of a difference in this season, o line is a ? also. I see this team going 8-4 reg. season with a real heartbreaker year. lose to Nc. st. , Vt., Fla.st. and of course So.Carolina.

Unless Clowney plays all seven positions on defense that lost starters from last year and also takes over Ace Sanders’ role as WR/PR, Marcus Lattimore’s & Kenny Mile’s spots at RB, Justice Cunningham’ spot at TE and TJ Johnson’s spot at center, the mighty lamecocks could be the one’s having a disappointing 8-4 (or worse) season.

Clemorange writes:

I love his spirit and I know he's great but why would you pump up Georgia by talking down to them. He's right though, I'm predicting Clemson beating Georgia by at least 3 scores but you ain't gotta tell them that. They know we are good but they probably aren't taking us that seriously so we needed to play into that by being quiet on the offseason. Even some of the articles u read on this site I think reveal to much. The articles I'm referring to that he needs to hush about are on bleacher report

TigerMarine writes:

in response to bigearbj:

why do coots feel the need to post on Clemson websites? I guess its the only way to keep their tradition going... being buttholes. Maybe one of the coots could enlighten me on their other traditions.

LIKE

radtiger writes:

in response to twk:

You will be needing more than Sammy, maybe use him on defense also he sure had a lot of drops though in the big games, you have to have players to step up maybe with Mr. Peak I don't see much of a difference in this season, o line is a ? also. I see this team going 8-4 reg. season with a real heartbreaker year. lose to Nc. st. , Vt., Fla.st. and of course So.Carolina.

I agree with you,I dont see Sammy being a factor again just like last year......I DONT BELIEVE THE HYPE.....WHAT WAS HIS REASON FOR PLAYING SO POORLY LAST YEAR????? Its not like he was recovering from a major injury....Once they stripped him of his Adderall, he went down hill....amazing how a little drugs can enhance the concentration and running skills.

radtiger writes:

in response to FlopEye:

Lets hope that Chad and Dabo will keep
Sammy in the games against Duke, B.C. and Wake.
This is the "perfect storm" to pad his stats.
He'll probably choke against Fla. St., Ga.,
and USC ( not So. Cal) the USC that has kicked
Clemson's butt for the last 4 years. The orange
kool-aid you folks have been fed by Dabo
will soon get sour. Sammy is a good kid with a
lot of talent, but we've seen how the "Dab"
can screw with a kids mind, i.e.,give them un-
realistic view of themselves i.e.( See Kyle Parker- or maybe Willy Korn").
I want to see Clemson be successful and only
lose the last game of the year. The state of
South Carolina needs good news, after all, we
are a national leader in infant deaths, we
are right at the bottom in education and our
state is viewed as a joke by most if the
country- Thank Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson and
Lindsey " Gramnesty" for that.
For God's sake, put a muzzle on Dabo before
the season starts. Wait until you accomplish
some great things before this clown makes
an fool of himself, as he has done countless
times.

YOU TOOK THE WORDS OUT OF MY MOUTH.....AMEN TO THAT

radtiger writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

Unless Clowney plays all seven positions on defense that lost starters from last year and also takes over Ace Sanders’ role as WR/PR, Marcus Lattimore’s & Kenny Mile’s spots at RB, Justice Cunningham’ spot at TE and TJ Johnson’s spot at center, the mighty lamecocks could be the one’s having a disappointing 8-4 (or worse) season.

Yes SC did lose a lot of great players this year(sending them to the NFL)because thats how the SEC roll, more than we did but the difference in SC and Clemson is that they have other great players to replace the ones they lose

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