New position, new outlook

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Nuk Hopkins recently gave wide receiver Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
So. Wide Receiver
#2 6-1, 205
Fort Myers, FL

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some advice on how to approach his junior season: play and prepare like it’s your last season at Clemson.

Hopkins parlayed a strong junior season at Clemson into what will undoubtedly be a high-round draft pick in the NFL Draft, and Watkins enters the 2013 season in a new position – the “9” or boundary position manned by Hopkins last season.

Hopkins set single-season records in receiving yards (1,405) and touchdowns (18) a year ago, and Watkins has moved over from the “2” spot he has played each of his first two seasons.

Watkins, who met with the media following Thursday’s practice, said Hopkins has been giving him advice on how to play the position – and a lot more.

“I talk to him every other day. He has been giving me advice,” Watkins said. “He just told me to not knock the coaches and just to go out there, play ball and have fun. He said the coaches can only coach so much, and that you have to go out there and have fun with it and approach every game with a passion. He told me I have to approach the season like I am going to leave after this season. I am going to work hard and listen to what he says.”

Watkins said he has been watching film of Hopkins’ 2012 season in order to get a better grasp on how to play the position.

“It’s been a great experience, just watching film on what Nuk did and seeing how he made plays,” he said. “This gives me and Tajh [Boyd] the opportunity to get together and make plays, especially on third down. I’ve been working on separation and using my body to create separation, just like Nuk did. I know I can run past people. I know I need to hold my line and just be physical making plays.”

I asked Watkins about the difference – schematically – of playing the field receiver position and the boundary, and he said moving to the boundary doesn’t allow opponents to devise too many ways to stop him.

“There just aren’t that many coverages you can run on the boundary receiver,” he said. “Cover 1, Cover 2 and Cover 4 is what I will see the most. At the “2” spot, they can push everything to the field-linebackers and the corners and the safeties. They can basically bracket you, which is what they did last year. At the “9” man they can’t do that, because we can run the football.

“They just don’t have that many options. This is a great opportunity for me to play this position, because it is all up to the corner and the safety. You just have to battle and make plays. I know all I have to do is beat the guy in front of me and at that point, it is just who wants it most. I can’t wait for the season to start and see what Georgia does against me.”

Offensive coordinator Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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says he hopes that Watkins and Boyd are using the spring to develop the same kind of chemistry that Boyd had with Hopkins.

“I think the biggest thing we’re trying to get with Sammy and Tajh is a great chemistry,” Morris said, “and I think that’s going to take time. Moving him to the boundary, it’s not going to happen in spring practice. It’s going to take well into the summer and it’s going to take hard, hard work for Sammy and Tajh and some of the receivers to get on the same page.”

Morris said that the chemistry wasn’t a finished product.

“We’re not there right now,” he said. “We see spurts. We see flashes, but these guys have a lot of work to do this summer…This summer is going to be very critical for this offensive football team, and this team in general.”

Watkins said he knows the playbook and understands the concept of what he is supposed to do, and that he and Boyd need to work on their timing and play recognition.

“I know the plays,” he said, “but it’s a process of timing and knowing when he’s going to throw the ball. This spring we’ve been connecting a lot and making a lot of big plays. But we still have a lot more to work on with releases and knowing what to do on several coverages. But overall, we’ve been actually making a lot of plays – we’re not where he and Nuk were, but by the end of fall camp, I think we’ll be there.”

Watkins said that he is using last season as an example of how not to prepare, and that he is far more focused this time around. He even said he feels like he is going to work himself to death.

“Way more focused. Last year, I had a lot of things going on,” he said. “I was frustrated and not really accepting greatness and just trying to hide from everything. This year, I am accepting the adversity and just going with it. I catch myself working harder and I think I am going to kill myself. I am not being nonchalant and I am trying to lead by example.

“Last season was just a natural reaction after having a great season, and you just approach the game differently. I still paid attention, but I thought it was just going to be easy. A lot of teams played me differently, and I wasn’t prepared for that. I didn’t prepare the way I should have. This season, everything is different.”

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