Watkins leaves big impression

CLEMSON - Sammy Watkins needed only three practices to make his case for a spot in the starting lineup.

He needed just one touch to prove that he was there to stay.

On the second play from scrimmage on Saturday, Watkins caught a screen pass and raced 33 yards for a touchdown.

The freshman from Fort Myers, Fla. finished the afternoon with seven receptions for 81 yards -- both Clemson records for a freshman in his first game.

"With the ball in his hands, Sammy did a lot of great things...he's definitely a game-changer and difference-maker," said offensive coordinator Chad Morris. "And we all saw that."

Indeed.

The post-Clemson arrival hype started less than a week into preseason camp.

Head coach Dabo Swinney dished out praise for Watkins' performance on the practice field and preparation in the meeting room.

"We have a lot of talented guys come through here, but the thing I like about Sammy is that he has great intangibles to go with the talent; his work ethic, his toughness, his attention to detail," Swinney said, midway through camp. "He makes very few mistakes. He studies. You can pick up his notebook and he has pages of notes. He goes home and studies and he ask questions. He is really focused."

Watkins said that attention to detail started during summer skills and drills work.

"[Veteran teammates] were telling me plays. I really didn't have a notebook or anything, so I would go home and write them down. When we came into the meeting room with the wide receivers and coaches, I was writing everything down.

"They saw how fast I was picking it up at practice. I wasn't thinking about the plays. I was actually going fast and not thinking about the plays."

Wide receivers coach Jeff Scott first told Watkins that he was on track to work his way into the first group.

"I was out there working hard during the whole camp. During the offseason, I was working hard, just getting big, learning the plays," Watkins said. "Coach [Scott] was like, 'You might have a starting position.' I was like, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'Keep working.' I texted back and was like, 'I'm never going to stop working. If I do get first, I'm going to still work.'"

Morris was more than happy to reward Watkins for that work.

For two weeks, the Tigers practiced the first nine plays that Morris scripted for the season opener against Troy.

"I was getting the ball and was going to get the ball," Watkins said. "We came into the second half, we did a lot of game-planning, a lot of plays. Coach told me we were going to run a lot of screens and hitches here and there, and I was going to touch the ball a lot."

Lots of touches for Watkins?

Here's a safe bet -- that won't change anytime soon.


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