By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- When Sammy Watkins stepped on the gridiron last season; the nation was shocked by his talent and ability to blow by defenders. After receiving several accolades for the 2011 season, including ACC Rookie of the Year, Watkins continues to believe that he hasn’t done anything yet compared to what he knows he’s capable of doing.
What has Watkins worked on during the off season to improve his game?
“Actually I got a little stronger, dropped a couple of pounds, seems like I’m getting faster,” Watkins said. “Got into the weight room and got my shoulders and lower body right.”
After a breakout season like Watkins’ had last year, his focus for 2012 is to improve every aspect of his game.
“My focus is to forget what I did last year and finish on the field with things I need to work on like being coachable, strength and ability. As far as my skill set goes, I’d say I have to work on everything. I’m not perfect; I don’t think anyone is so I have to work on everything.”
Blocking is something that Watkins knows he has to focus on during the offseason.
“That’s what I’m coming out here doing, getting after the cornerbacks,” he said. “When they’re playing off I get after them, chase them around and when they’re in my face I try my best to put them on the ground every time.”
Watkins expressed interest last season in working more on punt returns, a job that fellow receiver Nuk Hopkins had last season.
“I actually want to take over on punts, get us some good field position,” Watkins said. “Maybe take a couple back, just make us a better team in special teams and all over. I approached Coach Swinney about this and Nuk, we will both play back there, he may get the first punt and I may get the second it doesn’t matter.”
As much of the offense that Watkins is and will be this next season, he isn’t worried about fatigue.
“Once I’m on the field I don’t get tired, in practice you get tired,” he said. “In the game your adrenaline is running, the offense isn’t really going all that fast, and the substitutions I’ll be fine.”
After suffering a shoulder injury last season, Watkins admits that after the Wake Forest game he was never 100% again.
“It was tough because I gave the team everything that I had during the first eight games,” he said. “You could tell when I limited with my shoulder and my legs getting tired later on in the season.
Were there any plays that Watkins couldn’t make later on in the season that he would have if healthy?
“Absolutely I think we would have won the South Carolina game if I would have caught the pass in the end zone,” Watkins said. “If I would have caught that ball it would have been a totally different game.”
With all of the accolades Watkins received last year, he promised the media that it didn’t change him, in fact he hasn’t seen any of the trophies, and instead he sent them straight to his house in Fort Myers.
“I never got the accolades, I sent them all to my parents,” Watkins said. “I still go into the game with the approach that I have to improve and get better. My coaches and parents keep me humble.”
What has changed with Watkins as a player since he came to Clemson in the fall?
“I see the bigger picture now as a player and being a leader,” he said. “Speaking up and talking to the offense instead of just going out there and making plays I’m trying to be a leader for the whole team. Speak what’s on my mind, practice hard, don’t take plays off, and continue to bond with the receiver group and be coachable.”
As far as the Heisman trophy goes, Watkins isn’t worried about whether or not he’s a preseason candidate.
“It doesn’t cross my mind at all,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there and play and see what happens.”