Riches at receiver make Tigers tough to catch

Riches at receiver make Tigers tough to catch

Football

Riches at receiver make Tigers tough to catch

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By Ed McGranahan.

By Ed McGranahan

The guy his teammates nicknamed “White Lightning” and “White Chocolate,” said he’s not bothered by being stereotyped.

A self-described “possession” receiver in the Clemson stable of thoroughbreds, Adam Humphries said he purposely fashions himself after Wes Welker, the Denver Broncos receiver who took the money when the New England Patriots wouldn’t show him love.

Clemson loves them some Adam Humphries.

“I missed him a couple of times this season, and I said, ‘Look Adam, don’t hate me, I still love you,’ ” said quarterback Tajh Boyd.

Tom Brady should be envious of Boyd. For that matter, so should Matt Ryan. Imagine losing a couple of your best receivers – the Patriots and Falcons have – and never missing a beat. Clemson’s wealth of talented pass catchers runs wide and deep with 19 different players credited with receptions through five games and a school-record 11 with touchdown catches.

It must make a former receiver coach’s heart swell.

The parts are relatively interchangeable

“To be honest with you,” said Dabo Swinney. “I don’t pay attention much anymore.”

When DeAndre Hopkins left a year early for the NFL, Sammy Watkins became the first option, the security blanket. It was Watkins who drove the stake into Syracuse’s heart by running under a rainbow from Boyd for a 91-yard touchdown in the third quarter at Syracuse.

When Charone Peake went down for the year with a torn knee ligament it was Humphries who replaced him. Boyd can also dial up receivers Martavis Bryant, Germone Hopper, T.J. Green and Mike Williams, tight ends Stanton Seckinger, Jordan Leggett and Sam Cooper.

When C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford were on the roster Swinney “was very attuned because we weren’t going to win if they weren’t where they needed to be.”

“That’s what makes it difficult to handle because guys are unselfish, guys can all make plays,” Swinney said. “We’re confident in all those guys. Tajh is confident in them. They know what they’re doing.”

Having Watkins creates opportunities for the others. Watkins has respectable though not mind-blowing numbers with 29 receptions for 481 yards and three touchdowns.

“Obviously he’s the most explosive guy we have,” Swinney said.

“He’s going to get his touches and rightfully so, he makes plays. He’s as good a decoy as there is in the game,” he said. “We used him in a couple of situations as the bait if you will, and he’s pretty good bait. They bite on that one and it creates opportunities for other people.

“I think allows us to be explosive and keeps them guessing because Sammy doesn’t have to touch it to allow us to make plays in the passing game.”

Case in point was Humphries’ first touchdown on the third play of the game. Preoccupied by Watkins, the Syracuse defense let Humphries run free. “I think that’s the most wide-open I’ve ever been,” Humphries said.

It happened again later in the quarter, Boyd’s second of five touchdowns passes. It’s not unfamiliar turf for Humphries who was open on fourth-and-16 in the bowl game with LSU.

“Those are probably the hardest catches to make in football, when you’re that wide open,” Humphries said. “You just have to put all your focus on the ball and not think about, ‘Wow, there’s nobody around me.’ ”

A basketball player almost exclusively until his sophomore year at Dorman High School, he was inspired by players like Welker, not too small and just fast enough, precise in his routes and sure of hand.

“Just because we have similar attributes, the way we run our routes, our ball skills,” he said, “that’s kind of how some other white receivers are as well. They see themselves kind of being like Welker.”

In the world of “White Lightning,” it’s an acknowledgement to the former basketball point guard valued for his versatility and selflessness. Humphries also had 40 yards in punt returns at Syracuse and last year practiced at cornerback when Clemson was thin in the secondary.

“It’s funny, but it is a compliment to me,” Humphries said of the nicknames.

One day soon, Swinney believes, Humphries will be in The League with Welker.

Right now Brady or Ryan could use him.

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