The 2013 season holds high hopes for the Clemson Tigers. According to the AP Top 25 poll, Clemson is ranked 11th in the nation and will open up August 31st in Death Valley against the 5th seeded Georgia Bulldogs.
Clemson will have to figure out a way to make up for the lost production of last year’s top receiver DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins, who set school receiving records with 1,405 yards and 82 catches on the year. He also caught 18 touchdowns last season, both a Clemson and ACC record. Ultimately, Hopkins was drafted in the first round last year by the Houston Texans who held the 27th overall pick.
Losing such a quality receiver will surely impact Clemson’s offense and there’s no way they can replace the production DeAndre had on the field last year, right?
Wrong. Although Hopkins’ presence will be missed, the Tigers have a plethora of receivers who have the capability to be the best Clemson has ever seen.
Let’s go through 5 receivers who I believe have the potential to make Clemson’s receiving corps the best in the country, along with 1 route I believe each will use most effectively.
Sammy Watkins (6’1″, 205): Watkins is looking to have a bounce back year after a bit of a sophomore slump. He will be moving to play the outside receiver position after running slot his first two years with the Tigers. With his speed, Watkins could be a game plan
nightmare for opposing defensive coaches if he is left on an island going up against corners one on one with no help over the top. He will most likely draw double teams all season long, which will help free up parts of the field for other receivers to work with. But even against two defenders, Sammy has proven that he can still get open and catch the ball.
“I know one play against (Florida State), they had three guys on me, three covering me on one pass play and I made the catch. I don’t believe anybody can cover me one-on-one and I just hope everybody tries it.”
Watkins also hopes to see defenders play press defense against him.
“Teams don’t press me, most of them get in coverage 10, 12 yards off the line of scrimmage and I’m like, ‘Come on now, if you gonna cover me, be brave a little bit, come up on me, be physical at the line of scrimmage.”
Seeming that he is fully healthy and does not have a receiver in front of him on the depth chart, look for Sammy to have an All American caliber season.
*One route to watch out for: Post
Charone Peake (6’3″, 200): Peake is looking to make a name for himself, stepping into the starting role opposite Sammy Watkins.
Ranked as the No. 2 wide receiver in the nation by ESPN coming out of high school, Peake was a huge sign for Clemson at the time. But in his first two years he has seen limited time on the field, playing behind DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins. Now with Hopkins gone, the 6-foot-3 junior will have a chance to make a legitimate impact and live up to the expectations Clemson fans have had for him since he committed to the Tigers. Peake’s played in 27 games (starting two) his first two years and has 29 catches for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Along with great size and speed, Peake has great hands and excellent body control, allowing him to go up and get the ball above the defender, which should allow him to be a consistent red zone threat.
*One route to watch out for: Slant
Adam Humphries (5’11”, 190): The shifty South Carolina native will be Clemson’s starting slot receiver. At 5-foot-11, Humphries is
actually a tad bigger than the small, quick slot receiver many teams seem to be transitioning to. However he does not lack the quickness those smaller receivers possess.
Unlike the first two receivers mentioned, Humphries is not necessarily a “burner”. He is a possession receiver and probably has the best hands of anyone on the team. Look for him to convert on short distance downs and work most of his routes underneath the chains. He will probably be Tajh Boyd’s first choice in 3rd and short situations.
*One route to watch out for: 5 yard drag
Martavis Bryant (6’5” 200): Wow. If there’s any non-starting receiver in the country with more big play ability than this guy, let me know. Last year Bryant led the country in YPR (yards per reception) when he caught 10 passes for 305 yards (30.5 YPR) and notched 4 touchdowns. Standing 6-foot-5 and running an unofficial
sub 4.3 40 time (along with Sammy Watkins and Charone Peake) Bryant will be a handful for any poor corner who has the difficult task of trying to cover him.
With Bryant being the third receiver Clemson has that can run a 4.2 something 40-yard dash, opposing defenses should be gassed trying to keep up with the ridiculous speed Clemson brings to the table every time they step onto the gridiron.
*One route to watch out for: Fly
Jordan Leggett (6’6” 235): Due to the loss of Sam Cooper to a torn ACL in spring game, it looks as though true freshman Jordan Leggett will take over the starting job at tight end. But Leggett does not play like a freshman, he plays with the poise and demeanor of a seasoned vet, and coach Dabo Swinney says Leggett “is just as cool as a cucumber.” Tight ends in Clemson’s history have always fared well, and quarterback Tajh Boyd is always looking to share the wealth. Typically teams do better when their tight end is actively involved in the passing game, and the same goes for Clemson. With his frame, Leggett is a difficult matchup for whoever is guarding him. He will be able to stretch the field against linebackers and should be able to out-muscle corners and safeties who cover him, not to mention he probably has at least a 5 inch height advantage against most members of opposing team’s secondaries.
If he can establish a connection with Boyd early in the season, Leggett could be a huge factor in the passing game all season long.
*One route to watch out for: Tight end seam
If Clemson’s receivers can play up to their potential, they should rank among the nation’s best.