By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
When Clemson assistant Jeff Scott speaks to the media, he wears two hats. He answers questions about the team’s wide receivers and he updates the Tigers’ efforts on the recruiting trail as well.
Both hats were out in full force when Scott met with reporters at The Reserve at Lake Keowee on Tuesday evening. Scott gave just a bit of insight into the 2014 recruiting haul he plans to bring into the fold, but he was more forthcoming—for obvious reasons—about the expectations for his wide receivers heading into a critical opening contest with Georgia.
Unlike many position groups on the team, Scott’s wideout crew is missing its top performer from last season. DeAndre Hopkins, now with the Houston Texans, led the Tigers in virtually every major receiving category last season and eventually turned pro. His absence will be felt in meetings, in practice, and on the field this year.
“We’ve got to make up those yards and catches and touchdowns and big plays with some of these other guys. The good news is, I feel like we have guys that have already made big plays and guys that have been preparing for this year,” he said.
Attempting to step into the role are guys who are capable and unproven. As they attempt to prove themselves against some stiff competition early in the schedule, he says the versatility of his group may be its greatest strength.
“Having the ability to move around and play multiple positions can put you in a really good position as far as depth,” Scott said. “That’s one thing you’re always looking at—if a guy goes down early, how does that affect the other positions?”
Junior Sammy Watkins is the odds-on favorite to emerge as the leader of the receiving corps in 2013. Watkins experienced a sophomore slump last season, which Scott acknowledges was partly his fault and partly bad luck. With Hopkins gone and several interchangeable parts looking to carry the load, Watkins’ presence will be helpful to provide stability.
This is where Scott’s two jobs collide. The Clemson recruiting coordinator understands his ability to be confident in what his unit is doing is predicated on evaluating and signing quality players like Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant, Adam Humphries, Germone Hopper, and the rest of the Tiger receivers.
Sometimes lost in the stars and the ratings is how valuable these players are as athletes and as people within a program.
“We don’t just recruit to entertain ourselves and entertain fans,” Scott said. “We recruit for when guys like Hopkins leave. We knew that day was coming.”
That day is today for the Tigers at wide receiver. With a third-year starter at quarterback, a veteran offensive line, and the game’s highest-paid offensive mind, Clemson is sure to score some points through the air this season. Who is catching those passes is something Scott and the rest of the coaches will examine as this young group looks to blossom into a championship-caliber unit.