By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
DeAndre Hopkins’ decision to forgo his senior year at Clemson and enter the 2013 NFL Draft proved to be a good one. The Tigers’ former wide receiver was taken 27th overall by the Houston Texans in the first round of last week’s draft.
With Hopkins now in an NFL jersey, what does that mean for Clemson’s offense in 2013?
“That’s a good question. Well, we are going to find out,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Last year, Hopkins hauled in 82 passes for a school-record 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns, but if there is one position that could afford to lose a playmaker like Hopkins, it was at wide receiver.
“We have six guys that we can go win with today,” Swinney said. “I feel good about them. We can win with those guys.”
The Tigers are loaded with talent especially with 2011 All-American Sammy Watkins back.
Last year was a relatively a quiet year for Watkins’ standards, though he caught 57 passes for 708 yards and scored three touchdowns, despite missing the equivalent of four-and-a-half games due to suspension or injuries.
“Hopefully, Sammy is on the field every game,” Swinney said. “Obviously, that’s a good place to start. He really only played like seven games last year.”
Watkins worked the entire spring at Hopkins’ old position on the boundary side of the field. Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris are hoping this move will give Watkins more one-on-one opportunities and if a safety is brought over to help out, it will cause something else to open up on the field side.
“There are 82 catches that are on the table, basically,” Swinney said. “Between Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant, Adam Humphries and Germone Hopper, there are a lot of catches to be distributed amongst that group to what is really a talented group of guys.
“It’s going to be one of them. Somebody is going to step up and we will find out who it is.”
Below is a look at Clemson’s depth chart at wide receiver
Sammy Watkins, 6-1, 205, Jr. – The Fort Myers, FL native says he was a little taken back by the amount of attention defenses gave him last year and said he obviously did not work or prepare himself hard enough for what was thrown at him. He says he will not make that mistake this year. The move to the boundary position should be a great move for Watkins, especially if his teammates make the plays they are capable of on the field side. Also, playing in the boundary will allow the All-American to improve in running his routes and becoming an all-around wide receiver.
Martavis Bryant, 6-5, 200, Jr. – Bryant is listed at the No. 2 spot behind Watkins on the boundary side, but there will be plenty of times both will be on the field at the same time. Clemson wants to still use Watkins in other capacities, plus Bryant can play on the other side of the field, as he did at times last year when he caught 10 passes for 305 yards and scored four touchdowns. The Calhoun Falls, SC native had an excellent spring, the best he has had since he has been at Clemson, and both Swinney and Morris expect him to be one of the go-to guys this fall. In the spring game, he had seven catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. After having a few issues in regards to his school work, plus suffering a groin injury last year that set him back, the coaches say the light bulb has finally come on for him and that “he finally gets it.”
Charone Peake, 6-3, 200, Jr. – The Moore, SC native finally gets his shot to prove what he can do as he moved up to Jaron Brown’s spot in the starting lineup. Peake has better overall skill set than Brown, but he could never overtake Brown due to Brown’s work ethic and knowledge of the offense. But Peake has made big strides in both areas and the coaches believe he has a chance to make an impact in the offense this fall.
Matt Porter, 5-11, 190, Jr. – Porter, who is listed behind Peake on the depth chart, was originally a walk-on that his earned his way up the latter. He played in eight games last season and was one of the bright spots for the Clemson offense in the spring. However, the James Island, SC native will be challenged by freshmen Mike Williams, Kyrin Priester and T.J. Green when they get on campus this summer.
Adam Humphries, 5-11, 190, Jr. – The Spartanburg, SC native has spent the first two years of his Clemson career as Watkins’ backup, but with Watkins moving into Hopkins old spot, Humphries is now the starter. Though not as fast as Watkins, Humphries is one of the more athletic players on the Clemson team and started the three games Watkins missed in 2012. He also crossed trained as a defensive back in practice at times last fall when injuries started to mount up in what became a depleted secondary. But with eight freshmen defensive backs coming in, Humphries can concentrate on being only a wide receiver. He has 56 career receptions for 410 yards and a touchdown and is coming off an eight-catch performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after Watkins went down with an injury on the second play of the game.
Germone Hopper, 6-0, 175, Fr. – The coaches think Hopper has the tools to be a great wide receiver for Clemson, but they want to see him put on a little more weight and get stronger, two things he will need to work on this summer. He is lightning quick and has plenty of wiggle. He was one injury away from playing last fall. With Watkins playing the boundary side, look for Morris to use Hopper the way he used Watkins the previous two years at this position. Hopper will challenge Humphries for the starting position in fall camp, especially if he becomes stronger. It should make for an interesting battle in August.