Career season in tow, Watkins says he's just getting started

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins breaks a tackle by Virginia safety Rijo Walker after catching a pass in the first quarter at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock, Independent Mail

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins breaks a tackle by Virginia safety Rijo Walker after catching a pass in the first quarter at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

Matching Sammy Watkins with a true freshman corner is not ideal, but that's exactly what Virginia faced with Tim Harris (a four-star prospect) and Clemson in 3rd-and-15, pressed against its goalline Saturday.

All the star receiver had to do to free himself, in his words, was run.

"Just run real fast," said Watkins, with a smile. "I don't know what the cornerback was doing but he was a very young guy and that's what our game film showed to look that way."

A 55.6-yard Tajh Boyd toss (by ESPN's metrics) and a Watkins' effortless grab-and-glide later: it was the second-longest play from scrimmage in Clemson history, 96 yards.

"We all know how explosive (Watkins) is," Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said, "and he's got a great feel for the ball. Tajh has a great feel for him to go get the ball and make the play."

The South Fort Myers (Fla.) product is no stranger to history this season, putting together a career year of career years

Watkins is currently is besting former teammate DeAndre Hopkins' single-season yards per game record, 109.1 to lead the ACC, and sits only 111 yards from Nuk's career receiving record (3,020).

He says he's still working towards the standard set by Hopkins, trailing five scores from another one of his career marks (27 TDs).

"I think I'm getting to that level," he said. "I still think I've got a lot more in me. Coaches push me every week and I'm getting better every week with just blocking and being physical and making the catch they expect me to make."

Morris says Watkins' current run is even more impressive with how they use him.

"(Boyd and Watkins have) got a great feel for each other and that's kinda what you're starting to see," he said. "The difference between Nuk and Sammy now is Nuk didn't move all over the field. Sammy's moving all over the field and Tajh has to find the matchup."

The junior has had six catches or more in seven games this season, out-pacing his 2012 yards per catch average (12.4) in five games already. Boyd has looked his way for 31 percent of his targets - a full nine percent higher than any other Tiger (Martavis Bryant, 22).

He's rewarded the opportunities with six 100-yard receiving efforts in nine games, besting his five in 13 games in 2011. To no surprise, Watkins holds the Clemson record for career 100-yard receiving games (13).

"We always want to get the ball to No. 2," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "We've been pretty consistent all year long getting him the ball. He's been very consistent. There's no question it's a major emphasis every week."

More notes on Watkins' season to date

* With Clemson inside its 40, Watkins is averaging 18.7 yards per catch, with 598 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He has five catches of 20-plus yards and 16 first down grabs.

* 12 of his 15 third down catches have gone for first downs and 4-of-5 on third down-and-10-plus have been conversions.

* He's coming off his first multi-score game since Maryland 2011 (3), after touchdown receptions of 33 and 96 yards.

* In ACC play, Watkins is averaging 119 yards and 8.1 catches per game, with six touchdowns.

* He is on track to set the Clemson single-season receptions record in the bowl game, currently 22 short of Aaron Kelly's record (88).

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Comments » 5

33dtb writes:

Nuk was a "possession" receiver and on top of that was rarely thrown to if Sammy was able to stand.

TigerNE writes:

A part of me regrets that he is probably 99% certain to enter the draft. Another season with Sammy on board and a Stoudt arm throwing to him might be exciting. But then again, we've got a lot of talent coming up and remaining like Peake, Bryant (!!) and Williams. Both Bryant and Williams can pick a ball over an average back's head like they are taking fruit off a limb. If Demarre Kitt doesn't RS we may have some Sammy speed, too. Young. But speedy.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

I'd love to see Sammy come back, but I just can't figure it. There would have to be some violation of NCAA rules for him to stay. There will be no more Sammy's. We can only hope to have some almost like Sammy. And a guy that is 75% as good as Sammy is 25% better than anybody else. That's said with a lot of love!!! Remember the quarterback we have coming in from Gainesville, GA.

TigerNE writes:

in response to rsb8931#286014:

I'd love to see Sammy come back, but I just can't figure it. There would have to be some violation of NCAA rules for him to stay. There will be no more Sammy's. We can only hope to have some almost like Sammy. And a guy that is 75% as good as Sammy is 25% better than anybody else. That's said with a lot of love!!! Remember the quarterback we have coming in from Gainesville, GA.

We will soon find out if Demarre Kitt is the next closest Sammy. He's supposed to enroll early next year I read. And he has amazing speed from some of the numbers I've seen, but maybe not the same acceleration as Sammy. Plus we've got Bryant, Peake, Hopper, Williams, Humprhies....so we may end up without an exact replacement but a wider spread of talent for a good arm to toss to like Stoudt's. Not sure yet about Kelly. He's still got that jittery adrenaline thing going. And I expect Deshaun Watson gets a RS next season unless something really bad happens with the two QBs getting some playing time now.

rsb8931#286014 writes:

To TigerNE: I think you are quite right about the receivers we have coming back and coming in. We don't have to have another Sammy and what you say is exactly right. We have 5 other guys that can take up the slack for Sammy being gone. And what a nice problem to have with the quarterbacks. Red Shirt the best high school dual threat QB or play him before the ones we have and know what they can do. A very nice problem to have.

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