Buckeyes Well Aware of Watkins' Talents

Whether they played against him in high school or have just watched film on him, Ohio State's players are well aware of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. We take a look at what the Buckeyes might do to cover the All-America wideout and where the Buckeyes have struggled in the past against top receivers.

Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman doesn't have to be told just how good Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins is.

He's already seen his talents up close and personal.

"My senior year, he was in the last high school game I ever played," Heuerman said. "We played against Sammy and Dallas Crawford, who's at Miami. Dallas might have actually been better than Sammy in high school, but my senior year, I remember it was a playoff game – first round of the playoffs, and Sammy threw a touchdown, caught a touchdown and ran for a touchdown on a reverse."

With that, Heuerman paused and chuckled.

"And I was the defensive end," Heuerman added.

So just like when Heuerman's Naples Barron Collier squad met Watkins' South Fort Myers team in the Florida playoffs three years ago, the two will meet in the postseason in college when Ohio State and Clemson meet in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.

Of course, Heuerman hopes to see a different result this time, but there's no doubt that Watkins will provide a stiff challenge for the Buckeyes.

Watkins was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award this season and found himself on multiple All-America teams, earning first-team honors from the American Football Coaches Association as well as a second-team nod from the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Football Foundation, giving him first-team honors each of his three college seasons.

This year, Watkins has 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns, not to mention two catches of 90-plus yards – two of the three longest plays in school history. He has seven 100-yard receiving games this year and 14 for his career, and Watkins needs just four receptions in the Orange Bowl to establish a Clemson season record for receptions.

For his career his 224 receptions are fourth in ACC history and his 3,164 career receiving yards rank fifth.

In addition, Watkins is presumed to be the top wide receiver in the 2014 draft, should he leave early, and is a likely first-round draft choice according to just about every pundit out there.

"Coming into this season it was about dominating every team, putting my face back on Clemson and letting everyone know I can play and be that same guy from my freshman year," Watkins told our Clemson site in November. "I came in this summer, worked the hardest I've ever worked and it's showing on the field.

"I'm practicing hard every day, doing the little things right and coach can't ask from more for me than me. Going into practice and games I perform, listen to things they've evaluated me on and I evaluated myself. I turned into a complete player this year and I'm working hard."

On the other side of things, it's no secret Ohio State's 103rd-ranked pass defense has struggled this season, but of the most worry might be the fact that opponents have had their No. 1 target often go off against the Buckeyes.

At the top of the list is the performance of first-team All-Big Ten wideout Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin, who set an all-time Ohio State opponent record with 207 yards receiving against the Buckeyes in September. The other first-team All-Big Ten wideout, Penn State's Allen Robinson, had 12 catches for 173 yards against Ohio State, while second-team choice Jeremy Gallon hauled in nine passes for 175 yards.

On the whole, eight opposing wide receivers topped the 100-yard mark vs. the Buckeyes this year, a surprising total considering the Buckeyes went the entirety of the 2008 and '10 regular seasons without allowing a 100-yard receiver.

"We have to get this fixed," head coach Urban Meyer said.

But how will they go about doing so? There could be some personnel changes, as there has been talk that redshirt freshman nickel back Tyvis Powell and true freshman safety Vonn Bell could take on bigger roles in the Orange Bowl.

The Buckeyes also could try to put first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Bradley Roby, another potential first-round draft pick, on Watkins and simply play man coverage, a strategy the team used in the Wisconsin game with mixed results. Abbrederis did have a huge game, but the Buckeyes kept the Badgers' ground game in check and won the game as well.

One thing is for sure, though – the Buckeyes will know who No. 2 is on the Clemson side of the ball.

"He's a great player," Heuerman said. "But we have great players on our defense. We have coaches who will give us a great game plan going on. When you have a player like that, you just have to do your job. You're not going to win every single play. If something goes wrong, you just have to get back up and go to the next play."

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