Watkins: "This year will be different"


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Watkins can be one of the most dynamic players in the nation when healthy. (TigerNet Staff)
Watkins can be one of the most dynamic players in the nation when healthy. (TigerNet Staff)

CLEMSON – Sammy Watkins wants to be known as more than just a great player to his teammates. He wants to be known as a great leader as well.

Watkins’ talent on the football field is well-documented, the highlight clips easily pulled off of YouTube and Clemson fans can easily recount their favorite plays.

But Watkins did a lot of soul-searching after last season – a season that started with a two-game suspension after an arrest for misdemeanor possession in May. He missed another game due to illness and ran just two plays against LSU In the bowl game before leaving with an injury.

He admitted following practice earlier this week that he didn’t deal with the adversity as well as he should, and that he not only needed to step up and become a more mature player and person for himself, he needed to become a leader for an offense that will look for him to make plays following the departures of Andre Ellington and Nuk Hopkins.

“It just made me step up and mature,” Watkins said. “I just realized that I’m going to make mistakes and I’m also going to face some adversity. It just made me realize I’ve got to step up and be a leader, because I am being watched by everybody. Last year, I didn’t have the right mindset. This year, I am doing everything I can to show my teammates that I am putting my best foot forward. This is going to be a different year.”

As a result, Watkins spent more time with Tajh Boyd and with his teammates, perfecting his craft and not just leaning on his natural ability.

“This summer, we did everything together. We did at least 40 routes a today,” he said. “We did a lot of things to get better. We worked on the routes I have problems with and the routes he has problems with. The young guys were watching us. I take pride in working hard and showing the younger guys how to work hard. It’s part of the game. You make plays in practice then you make plays in the game.”

The coaching staff announced that Watkins would move to Hopkins’ boundary receiver position this fall, but he admitted that he has bounced all over the field as the coaches try to find ways to get their most explosive player touches.

“I am just getting back in shape, and trying to get a connection with Tajh at all of the different positions. They have me moving around a lot. We just have to keep working hard,” he said. “I need to touch the ball 12 times a game to be a focus of the defense so that other players can get open. “

Earlier in the summer, Watkins raised a few eyebrows when he said he thought Clemson would “beat the mess out” out of Georgia in the season opener.

This week, he didn’t back down from his statements but admitted he could have phrased them a little bit better.

“I think I kind of worded it the wrong way,” he said. “But I definitely have the utmost respect for Georgia. I mean, they’re 11-2 last year, a great quarterback, great running backs. So I just really had to show my team and my coaches I do have confidence in my team. I just should have worded it different, instead of saying beat the mess out of them.

“It’ll be a great chance for me. They are a great SEC team, a great defense. I can’t wait to play them. ACC versus SEC team, I’m pretty sure they’re going to be prepared. Whoever wants it the most out there, it’s probably going to be a high-scoring game with two great quarterbacks and great running backs on both sides of the ball."

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