AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The story of the spring at Clemson was the development of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who looked like a different player on the field for the Tigers.
All you need for proof is what he did in the first quarter of the spring game -- five catches for 100 yards. Coach Dabo Swinney called him the MVP of the spring, and said during the ACC spring meetings that he could not be prouder of Hopkins' development.
"Part of it goes back to the fact that he hasn’t had an offseason as an athlete," Swinney said. "He’s been a multisport guy. Last year after his freshman year he went into basketball and was sporadic in the spring. We got him, but it was after a long basketball season and he missed all the training in the weight room. Whereas this year, he plugged right into that, he picked up some good muscle mass, and what happens is as a guy gets stronger, his confidence grows. You put that type of confidence with an already good player, you’ve got a chance to have something pretty special. That’s what we saw in the spring.
"He's more physical, faster, more confident. And just him having experience, he’ll be a junior, other competitive players at his position that he’s trying to compete with every day. He’s a young man that really wants to be great. All those things pushed him to have a great spring."
One of those competitive players is freshman stud Sammy Watkins, whom Swinney credits for helping Hopkins get better. Should Hopkins continue his development, and Watkins continue his meteoric rise, the Tigers will have a dynamic duo that will be pretty fearsome for defenses to try to stop.
Here are a few other notes:
Swinney said he has yet to decide on a punishment for Watkins. Watkins was arrested earlier this month and charged with drug possession.
As for the transition to new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Swinney said everything went smoothly. "I thought he brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm right out of the gate. He and the rest of our defensive staff did a really good job of teaching the principles and basics of what we wanted to do this spring. We didn’t get it all done but we went at a pace where we kept our older guys interested and involved but we gave our younger guys an opportunity to compete because we’re a very young team. We only have 11 seniors and 60-plus freshmen and sophomores. There’s just a difference there. I thought that part, they did a good job and as a result of that, instead of one group getting it we had a couple groups getting it and that created the competition we needed to develop our guys on that side of the ball."