By Will Vandervort
Though the Clemson faithful may have hated to see DeAndre Hopkins forgo his senior year to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, Charone Peake probably wasn’t.
“The best thing he has going for him is that Nuk Hopkins has moved on to the NFL,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “(Peake) is an NFL type talent, and he has waited for his time and his time is now.”
Peake (6-3, 200) finished the 2012 season fifth on the team with 25 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns. His best game came against Ball State when he caught seven passes for 44 yards, while he scored touchdowns against Wake Forest and Duke.
In his first two seasons at Clemson, Peake has stood in the shadows of Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. Hopkins and Watkins have earned All-American honors in each of the last two seasons, while shattering Clemson’s single-season and career receiving records along the way.
Last year Hopkins established an ACC record for touchdown receptions with 18 and for consecutive games with a touchdown reception with 10. He finished his Clemson career first in school history with 27 touchdown receptions and first in receiving yards with 3,020.
Hopkins also established a single-season record for receiving yards with 1,405, and set a Chick-fil-A Bowl record with 191 receiving yards, which was also a Clemson record for a bowl game.
Swinney says it was hard for Peake to stand out the last two years because he just wasn’t where Hopkins and Watkins were at both mentally and physically. He has shown signs he can be every bit as good though.
The junior’s first career catch came against Auburn in 2011 when he went over the middle on a third down play and caught a 17-yard pass when the Tigers were trailing 21-7 at the time in the second quarter. He took a pop on the play, but he hung on to the football and Clemson went onto to score a touchdown a few players.
“I think the thing with Charone is that he wasn’t quite mentally ready as a freshman and not as quite physically ready,” Swinney said. “He kind of lost his confidence a little bit in his true freshman year.
“He was, I thought, as good as any player we had on the field last spring and in fall camp. In fall camp, he was tremendous. When he had the opportunity he was incredibly productive. He was very, very productive with the opportunities he had last year.”
This past season, with Watkins out due to a suspension, Peake started the Auburn game to open the year and caught four passes for 21 yards.
“It is his opportunity,” Swinney said. “He is ready. He is mentally and physically ready. This is a special talent.
“He has two big years left in front of him and I don’t have any doubt that Charone Peake is going to make the most of it and is really going to be a great player for us.”
Here is a look at the rest of the wide receivers heading into the spring that we expect to play in 2013.
Martavis Bryant, 6-5, 200, Jr.: Bryant only had 10 catches last season but he made the most of them. Four of his 10 catches went for touchdowns—22, 39, 41 and 40 yards—while averaging 30.5 yards per reception. He was suspended for the LSU game due to academic reasons.
Sammy Watkins, 6-1, 205, Jr.: You know expectations are high when a player catches 57 passes for 708 yards and scores three touchdowns and people say he had a down year. But when you are Sammy Watkins and you are one of the most dynamic players in the country that will happen. But Watkins productivity, though not Sammy like, was still good. Despite missing three games—two from suspension and one from illness, he finished second on the team in receptions and yards. Also, throw in the fact he only played two snaps against LSU before spraining his ankle. Swinney reported that Watkins is 100 percent healthy heading into the spring.
Adam Humphries, 5-11, 190, Jr.: Talk about making the most of your opportunities. In the three games Watkins was out, the Spartanburg, SC native caught 12 passes for 107 yards. He also hauled in eight receptions for 27 yards after Watkins went out with an injury in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. His biggest play in that game came on a nine-yard catch-and-run that moved the football to the LSU 17, giving Chandler Catanzaro an easier field goal attempt for the game-winner. Humphries finished third on the team with 41 catches for 280 yards and a touchdown.
Germone Hopper, 6-0, 175, Fr.: Hopper was a guy the coaching staff definitely wanted to redshirt last season and they were able to do so. The Charlotte, NC native is one of the fastest guys on the team and will eventually fall into the same role Watkins is in now in Chad Morris’ offense. The speedster was one of the top wide receiver prospects in the country coming out of high school. The U.S. Army All-American rushed for more than 4,000 yards and scored 50 touchdowns in his high school career and returned five kickoffs and one punt return for touchdowns in his senior season.
Daniel Rodriquez, 5-8, 175, So.: Not sure how much Rodriquez will play this coming season, but the sophomore did get the opportunity to catch three passes last year, while playing in all 13 games on special teams. His role on special teams will more than likely continue this season. The decorated war hero recorded 46 snaps in his first season as a college football player and totaled four tackles on special teams.