- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is a no-brainer choice for the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year.
He’s just not a lock to actually win the award.
The league is too talented and crowded at the quarterback position, including in Death Valley, where if Watkins is having another record-setting season, that must mean that Tajh Boyd is faring pretty well, too. One of Clemson’s biggest strengths this season -- much as it was a year ago -- is the number of options coordinator Chad Morris will have to work with. DeAndre Hopkins, Andre Ellington, and Brandon Ford – just to name a few – give Watkins the luxury of not having to do it all, while at the same time opening up opportunities for him and Boyd.
Watkins edged out Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas by four votes for the preseason award, but the reality of the situation is that EJ Manuel at Florida State could surpass them all. He’s on the team that was predicted by the media to win the ACC championship this fall, a preseason top-10 team good enough to contend for a national title. While Manuel might not be the best quarterback in the ACC (depending upon whom you ask), his accomplishments would be hard for the voters to ignore should the Noles actually live up to expectations this fall. Historically, voters tend to go with a player from a division champ (David Wilson, C.J. Spiller, Matt Ryan). NC State quarterback Mike Glennon could also have a spectacular season, especially with the veteran linemen he’ll have in front of him, but if the Wolfpack isn’t in the title game, he could be overshadowed.
Watkins, who may or may not be suspended for a portion or all of the season opener against Auburn, enters 2012 as the best player in the conference. It’s debatable, though, whether the voters will still see it that way at the end of the season.