Sammy Watkins enters '13 as ACC, national receiver to beat

Football - Sammy Watkins

Photo by Mark Crammer

Football - Sammy Watkins

Flying under the radar – with teammate Tajh Boyd shouldering the Heisman talk this season this season – probably isn’t the worst thing in the world for Sammy Watkins going into a big junior season.

In 2012, the Fort Myers, Fla. product missed almost a third of the season due to suspension and injury, but still managed to set the Clemson single-game receiving record (202, vs. Wake Forest) and averaged 78.6 yards per game in contests with a catch (was injured on the second offensive snap against LSU on a run).

Watkins enters 2013 as the active ACC leader in receiving yards (1,927), and is second in receptions (139) only to Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro (162).

Nationally, he’s third-best among active leaders in yards per game (83.8) and fourth in catches per game (6), averaging 13.9 yards per over two seasons.

With a renewed focus and also a new spot, it’s pretty safe to assume Watkins’ year-to-come will be closer to his record-setting 2,228 all-purpose yards his freshman campaign – than the 1,062 last season. His frosh APY mark (171.4 yards per game) didn’t last long actually, broken last season by Miami’s Duke Johnson (172.4) and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs (171.7). Clemson alum C.J. Spiller holds the all-time ACC APY record (7,588) and single-season mark (2,680).

Speaking of records, like I did with Boyd the other day, here’s what might be in range for Watkins with a strong bounceback year both in school and conference marks this season (numbers for a share of the record):

Career 200-Yard Receiving Games (ACC): 1 – Believe it or not, per the ACC records, two 200-yard games is the max, four players have done it and Watkins already has one such game in the bag.

100-yard receiving games (Clemson): 5 (12, DeAndre Hopkins) - Despite last season’s setback, Watkins has seven career 100-yard receiving game. He had five 100-yard games as a freshman.

Single-season receptions (Clemson, ACC): 88 (Aaron Kelly, 2007), 98 (Wake Forest’s Kenneth Moore, 2007) – Clemson’s all-time receptions leader Aaron Kelly (232) broke the single-season school mark in his junior season. Watkins had 82 grabs in 2011, which Hopkins matched last season. To reach the ACC record, Watkins would need to average a catch more than his career average (7) in 14 games.

Single-season receiving yards (Clemson): 1,405 (Hopkins) – Hopkins did that in 13 games, while Watkins set the mark the season before in 14. If an ACC title game is in the cards, will the junior take his record back? The conference mark is 1,604 yards, which N.C. State’s Torry Holt set in 1998.

Single-season receiving yards per game (Clemson): 108.08 (Hopkins) – Nuk shattered the Watkins’ 2011 mark set here (93.8). Just five more players topped 108.08 YPG last season, and only one is back in 2013 (Southern Cal’s Marqise Lee, 132.38).

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