CLEMSON, S.C. -- The topic came up just after DeAndre Hopkins declared for the draft. What should Clemson do to replace him?
Easy solution. Move outside receiver Sammy Watkins to the boundary spot, where Hopkins thrived.
The thinking? Watkins may be able to get more one-on-one opportunities, that will, in turn, give him more chances to turn 10-yard receptions into 60-yard touchdowns. Not only that, the receiver at this position needs to have great chemistry with quarterback Tajh Boyd. Watkins best fits that description among all receivers on the roster.
"It's been challenging," Watkins said. "You’ve got to be a great blocker, a physical player. You have to know when to run fast and when to speed up and read coverages. But as I got further in practice, I’m coming along and looking like Nuk [Hopkins] out there."
In a nutshell, Watkins says, he has to be a dominant receiver on every play -- somebody who can be relied upon to come up with a tough catch in any situation. That is where Hopkins excelled, particularly on third down.
To that end, Watkins has added 10 pounds in the offseason and is up to 210.
"With this position you have to be prepared every play," Watkins said. "At my other position, you could take a play off because you know the ball's not coming to you. This position, the ball could come to you at any time. You have to be prepared and ready to make a play every time you go out there on the field. You can’t be relaxed at that position because you have to block and be physical. So it’s going to challenge me to be a great player overall instead of just going out there and making big plays, to make those hard catches with people on you and while people are hitting you. It’s a great opportunity."
Watkins' sophomore season has been well documented. But now that he is going into his third year in this offense, his third year playing with Boyd, he realizes what is at stake. So do his coaches.
"We know what we have in Sammy," offensive coordinator Chad Morris said. "Now, we have a possession receiver there at the position with incredible speed and acceleration. What I think we’re going to see is we’re going to see a lot more two high safeties. We were getting one safety because they were pushing everything over to where Sammy was and leaving Nuk one on one. They’re not going to leave Sammy one on one backside with a corner. They’re going to leave a safety over to help, which should help our run game."
Added Watkins: "I would definitely say you will see bigger plays at this position. This position is made for the big plays, giving you the opportunity to have that one-on-one matchup."
How does that differ from his old spot? Watkins joked, "I think the defensive end was watching me."