Top 25 player countdown: No. 1

No. 1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

2011 stats: He played in 13 games and started 10 as a true freshman and finished with 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had 231 yards on 32 carries and 33 kickoff returns for 826 yards and one touchdown. He had 2,288 all-purpose yards.

Previous ranking: No. 3

Making the case for Watkins: The fact that he’s suspended for the first two games doesn’t mean he’s not still the most talented player in the conference. It means coach Dabo Swinney has sent the team a message that no one player -- not even a potential Heisman candidate -- is bigger than the team. Watkins will be missed against Auburn, but he will be back in time for the Sept. 22 trip to Florida State, and he will have the previous week’s game against Furman to shake any rust off. Watkins has said he doesn’t even know what a “sophomore slump” is, and he’s hoping to improve upon last year’s breakout debut. What’s most amazing about last year’s record-setting season for Watkins was that he’s capable of even more, and that’s why he’s at the top of this list.