Clemson eager for Sammy Watkins' return

As Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was on his way to play Auburn in the season opener, suspended star receiver Sammy Watkins was at home, sending Boyd encouraging text messages.

“He told me to start my Heisman race early,” Boyd said with a laugh.

Watkins, whose suspension ends this week, will be starting his late.

Watkins missed the first two games as punishment for a May 4 incident in which he was charged with two counts of possession, both misdemeanor charges. He will make his much-anticipated debut of the season on Saturday against an unheralded Furman team, and many are expecting an already potent offense to become even more explosive. Last year, Watkins had a record-setting season as a true freshman. Even with him sidelined, Clemson’s offense has racked up over 500 total yards in each of the past two wins.

“I feel like there really is no limit on where this offense can go because of the type of threats we have,” Boyd said. “We had the same people last year, but the difference is everybody is more mature. Everybody grew and understands the offense now.”

Watkins was on the sideline for last weekend’s 52-27 win over Ball State, and the Tigers were still scoring at a dizzying pace. Clemson scored 45 points in the first half, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins scored three touchdowns - in just over eight minutes.

“I told Sammy after the game he better get back in a hurry, people are going to forget all about him,” coach Dabo Swinney said.

Clemson’s record books will keep that from ever happening. As a true freshman last year, Watkins set a school record for receiving yards (1219) and touchdown receptions (12) and had the second-most receptions (82). If there is any rust – and Swinney said there won’t be – this will be a chance for Watkins to shake it off before the Sept. 22 Atlantic Division showdown at Florida State.

Because Watkins hasn’t contributed to the team’s 2-0 start, though, he wasn’t available for an interview – the theory being that he hasn’t done anything yet this year to deserve the attention.

Swinney said there’s no concern about the chemistry or dynamic of the offense in regards to keeping all of his playmakers happy once Watkins is back in the lineup.

“This is a really special group of guys,” Swinney said. “All of these guys are unselfish. They just want to win. Sammy would be the first one to tell you, he just wants to win. He’s not into any of that stuff. You just tell him what job you want him to do, he’s going to do it full speed. He’s his teammates’ biggest fan. There’s been nobody more excited for his teammates than Sammy Watkins the last two weeks.”

Watkins he has continued to practice with the team throughout his suspension. About a week before the Auburn game, Watkins practiced with the scout team. He worked all last week with the first-team offense and Boyd said his receiver is ready.

“If you were out here at practice, you couldn’t tell he wasn’t playing those first two games, because of the way he was looking at practice and his work ethic,” Boyd said. “He’s preparing himself for his time to come play with us. It should be something special. His presence on the field alone is something else. People have to always know where he’s at.”

On Saturday, he’ll finally be back on the field.