Talented receiving group expects to stand tall in Watkins' absence


by - Senior Writer -
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Nuk Hopkins caught 72 passes for 978 yards last season.

CLEMSON – Clemson fans responded in different ways when hearing that star receiver Sammy Watkins would miss the first two games of the season, including the opener against Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Many wondered if the Clemson offense would struggle without one of its top playmakers, but seemed to forget that the Tigers have plenty of others who can step up in Watkins’ absence.

And some, like Nuk Hopkins, have delivered in the past.

Hopkins said Monday evening that he doesn’t feel like he has been overlooked, despite catching 123 passes for just over 1600 yards in his first two seasons. Hopkins caught 72 passes for 978 yards last season.

"No, I don't really feel like I get overlooked," Hopkins said. "I had almost 1,000 yards, and I feel like everything from my freshman season to my sophomore season was better. So I feel like even if Sammy wasn't here, I couldn't have asked for a better season than I had last year."

Hopkins said that he feels stronger than he has in the past.

“I feel like I have gotten better. I feel like I will have a better season than last year,” he said. “If guys come up and press on me, I feel like I can get past them.”

He said that getting older and maturing have helped, as did having an entire off-season devoted to football helped – he tried to help Brad BrownellBrad Brownell
Head Coach
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’s basketball team following his freshman campaign.

“A lot of it is turning 20,” he said. “Last year, I was a young kid, and had a 19-year old body. Your body kind of matures as you get older. Coach [Larry] Greenlee and Coach [Joey] Batson have been working with me on my weaknesses.”

Hopkins then said that the fans – and opposing defenses – shouldn’t overlook Charone PeakeCharone Peake
So. Wide Receiver
#19 6-3, 205
Moore, SC

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and Martavis BryantMartavis Bryant
So. Wide Receiver
#1 6-5, 205
Calhoun Falls, SC

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.

"Both of those guys are mature about the game, and they're taking it serious,” he said. “They know they're one play away from being out there on the field the whole game. They don’t even look the same. It is like they are two different players out there.”

Adam HumphriesAdam Humphries
So. Wide Receiver
#13 6-0, 190
Spartanburg, SC

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backed up Watkins last year, and will be expected to carry much of the load in Watkins’ absence. However, he said Monday night that he isn’t taking anything for granted and is working to earn his spot.

“Right now, nothing is certain and I have to earn my spot,” Humphries said. “I knew something could happen with Sammy, so it was on my mind, but I knew that whatever needed to happen would happen and it would all fall into place. I just knew I needed to work hard over the summer in the weight room and in the film room and be ready to play.”

Humphries said Watkins has been a coach on the field for the wide receivers.

“Sammy is doing a great job of keeping us motivated and being a leader like he should be,” he said. “I learn from watching him, and there are things he does that I take notes on so I can do it when I get out on the field. Just like I am sure Sammy learns from watching Nuk. We learn from each other.”

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