SUNSET, S.C. — Jeff Scott remembers a conversation he had with his father, Brad Scott, about Sammy Watkins heading into the 2011 season and when they thought the freshman wide receiver would be ready to play.
“My prediction, I said right about game three, game four; Auburn, Florida State,” Scott said on Tuesday at Dabo Swinney’s golf outing from The Reserve at Lake Keowee in Sunset, S.C.
Scott’s forecast quickly changed after seeing Watkins practice for the first time in fall camp.
“After the first practice, I went to my dad and said I think he’s ready,” Scott said, laughing.
Watkins recorded seven receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown in his first career game against Troy. He wound up becoming the first freshman in Clemson history to be named a first-team All-American after totaling 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns for the season.
It’s an example, albeit extreme, of the unpredictability that accompanies incoming freshmen in college football — and the example Scott recalled when asked how soon he thinks freshmen wide receivers Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers will be ready to contribute this season.
“It’s obviously very early to predict that,” Scott said. “But I’m very optimistic that both of those will have an opportunity to help us this fall.”
Scott is encouraged by the feedback he has received on Higgins and Rodgers since they arrived on campus late last month.
“This is always the time of year where you have to go off of what your other players are telling you about skills and drills,” Scott said, “and obviously our strength coach and strength staff have been working with those guys and have had a lot of really good things to say about them.
“Our wide receivers, our veteran guys, have been very impressed with Tee and Amari in skills and drills. They’re trying to figure out what’s going on and learn the offense, but the early reports have been very good.”
In high school, Rodgers and Higgins each won two Mr. Football awards in their respective classifications and were both selected to play in the Under Armour All-American game as seniors.
Both were consensus top-200 prospects nationally, with Higgins a consensus top-40 prospect.
Should Higgins and Rodgers perform well in fall camp, Scott said they will have an opportunity to play out of the starting gate.
But because of Clemson’s depth at the wide receiver position, there’s no pressure on them, either.
“The good news for both Tee and Amari is they’re not going to have to be forced to be out there,” Scott said. “There’s some years where these talented guys are coming in and they really had to play early. They had to kind of learn by fire a little.
“I don’t think Tee or Amari are going to be in that situation, but if they show enough during fall camp where they’re ready, then we’ve definitely shown enough in the past we’re going to play freshmen and give those guys early opportunities.”
After working hard to help Clemson sign Higgins and Rodgers, Scott is excited to see them on the field when fall camp begins Aug. 4.
“As a coach, there’s nothing more exciting than getting that next group of guys coming in and be able to get out there with them for the first couple of weeks and see exactly how they respond,” Scott said. “But I think both of those guys are going to be fun guys to watch this fall camp.”
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