Amerson, Watkins struggle in early going

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was voted ACC Preseason Player of the Year.

He has played in two games this season.

NC State cornerback David Amerson was the best defensive player returning to the ACC.

He has struggled repeatedly in the two biggest games the Wolfpack have played this season.

Not exactly the start anybody envisioned for two All-Americans. So what gives?

Different reasons for each player. Watkins was suspended for the first two games of the year following an offseason arrest. He returned against Furman and worked his way back into the offense, showing off his supreme talent with a 58-yard touchdown run, and added four catches for 52 yards.

Though he did throw a touchdown pass against the Seminoles, Watkins was essentially shut down in the pass game -- with six catches for 24 yards. Then last week, he sat out against Boston College because of an abdominal virus. Watkins is expected back against Georgia Tech this Saturday, but as of right now, teammate DeAndre Hopkins has eclipsed Watkins as the man in the Clemson receiving group.

Hard to believe that Watkins only has 10 catches for 76 yards, along with 95 yards rushing and a touchdown after his breakout season a year ago, when he had 1,450 rusing/receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. His circumstances are somewhat understandable.

Not so for Amerson. After leading the nation with 13 interceptions last year, he was my choice as the player to watch in the ACC heading into the season. Well, he has been the player to watch for all the wrong reasons.

Amerson was torched in the opener against Tennessee, giving up touchdown passes of 41 and 72 yards. That is when alarm bells started ringing. Though he rebounded in the next three games and tied the NC State school record against The Citadel with his 16th career interception, he was burned again repeatedly against Miami.

He gave up both long touchdown passes -- a 76-yarder to Rashawn Scott in the first quarter -- and the 62-yard game-winner to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds remaining. Amerson has looked nothing like the player who turned heads a year ago.

"I think he’s gotten away a lot from fundamentals," NC State coach Tom O'Brien said during his weekly press conference. "He’s been stressed the last couple of weeks, but if it doesn’t hit home after last Saturday, it ain’t gonna hit home.”

Another huge challenge awaits Saturday against Florida State, a team that has playmakers all over the field. O'Brien said he would work with Amerson some more this week to help him get back to form.

"Film doesn’t lie," O'Brien said. "He’s not reading the fundamentals. He’s trying to make every play instead of doing his job. That’s what you’ve gotta do. You have to do your job. If he does his job and a ton of other guys do their jobs, then we win the football game.”