NCF Nation: Martavis Bryant


The ACC has lost 10 players who have decided to forgo their final seasons of eligibility and enter the NFL draft. It’s not a mass exodus, but their departures definitely leave some holes. Florida State is losing some talent, but Clemson arguably has the biggest shoes to fill, as the Tigers are losing their top two receivers from 2013, including All-American Sammy Watkins. With spring football around the corner, there will be plenty of competition throughout the league, but based on what we know now, here is the best guess at who the replacements will be for each of the ACC’s early entrees:

Leaving: Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Jones
AP Photo/Phil SearsIsaiah Jones (right) caught only two passes as a freshman, but Kelvin Benjamin's departure means he'll have to play a bigger role.
The replacement: Isaiah Jones. He is 6-foot-4, but he lacks Benjamin's physical strength (he weighs about 35 pounds less). Christian Green also could be an answer after playing sparingly the past two seasons. He's 6-foot-2 and known for his speed. He had 26 catches for 450 yards as a freshman in 2011 but has just 16 catches for 190 yards in the two seasons since. As far as a true red zone target and receiver who can win the jump balls, tight end Nick O'Leary will likely get the bulk of the throws that went to Benjamin in 2013.

Leaving: North Carolina C Russell Bodine

The replacement: Lucas Crowley. As a freshman, Crowley made his collegiate debut against rival NC State. He played 11 snaps and graded out at 90 percent. An encouraging sign for UNC fans should be Crowley’s performance against Pitt, where he played a respectable game opposite All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He played 66 snaps at center in that game and had five knockdowns.

Leaving: Clemson DB Bashaud Breeland

The replacement: Garry Peters. He was one of Clemson’s rising stars at cornerback in 2012, but an injury last season set him back. He still played in 10 games and enters this fall with 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, 12 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 33 games (five starts) in his career.

Leaving: Clemson WR Martavis Bryant

The replacement: Mike Williams. The true freshman played in all 13 games and started three, finishing 2013 with 20 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. His first career start came against Wake Forest, and Williams had a 14-yard touchdown. As a prep, he was rated the No. 3 player in South Carolina by ESPN.com. Williams has a lot of potential, and the Tigers will need him to reach it quickly.

Leaving: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

The replacement: Jack Tabb. He played in 10 games at tight end and on special teams, and he also saw some time at linebacker. He finished with six catches for 116 yards and 10 tackles. UNC also signed two tight ends in the 2014 class, including one, Brandon Fritts, who enrolled in January. The other, Avery Edwards, is regarded as the top TE in North Carolina.

Leaving: Florida State RB Devonta Freeman

The replacement: Ryan Green. He played in all 12 games (no starts), and finished with 163 yards and one touchdown on 33 carries. He showed some explosiveness in his limited playing time, as six of his carries went for 10 yards or more. His blocking and ability to take advantage of open holes still need to improve.

Leaving: Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan

The replacement: Nile Lawrence-Stample. He played in 13 games and started six alongside Jernigan at defensive tackle. He finished the season with 15 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. He also had two quarterback hurries. He made his first career start against Pitt and had a season-high three tackles against both Boston College and Maryland. He had one tackle in the national championship game.

Leaving: Syracuse RB Jerome Smith

The replacement: Prince-Tyson Gulley. He was granted a fifth season of eligibility and as of now is expected to play this fall. Gulley qualified for a medical hardship waiver because he broke his collarbone in 2011 and played just four games. He was third on the team in rushing in 2013 and finished with 456 yards and four touchdowns on 83 carries. He also had 15 catches and one receiving touchdown.

Leaving: Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

The replacement: Charone Peake. Watkins was one of a kind, and his record-setting production nearly impossible to duplicate, but Peake is the next man up. He was the Tigers’ second-leading receiver before he tore his ACL during a simple non-contact drill in practice on Sept. 10. Prior to the injury, Peake had eight catches for 84 yards and a touchdown, second only to Watkins in both receptions and yards. In 2012, Peake had 25 receptions for 172 yards and two scores.

Leaving: Florida State RB James Wilder Jr.

The replacement: Karlos Williams. He moved from safety to tailback in Week 2 and finished his first season at the position with 91 carries for 730 yards. His 8.02 yards-per-carry average was sixth in the nation. His 11 rushing touchdowns tied for seventh in the ACC. No running back from an automatic-qualifier conference school scored more routinely than Williams, who scored once every 8.3 carries.

Clemson offense must rebuild

January, 6, 2014
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Clemson has been through this before, losing top-tier talent to the NFL draft.

But when top receiver DeAndre Hopkins decided to turn pro after last season ended, everybody figured the Tigers would be just fine with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins returning.

The twin losses of Watkins and Martavis Bryant to the NFL draft this year leave behind many more questions. Not only are the Tigers losing their top two receivers, they also are losing Boyd, their record-setting quarterback over the last three years.

That is a trifecta that could inevitably label 2014 a rebuilding year.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesWithout Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd, who will make Dabo Swinney smile in 2014?
Watkins' decision to leave was a no-brainer. The talented junior proved in the Discover Orange Bowl win over Ohio State that he will be a top 10 draft pick. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper believes Watkins could go as high as No. 2 when the draft rolls around in May.

There was not much more for him to accomplish at Clemson, either. Watkins tied Hopkins for career touchdown receptions (27), holds the single-season receptions (101) and career receptions marks (240) and single-season record for receiving yards (1,464). He would have been foolish to return.

Bryant's decision is another matter entirely. There is little doubt he could have improved his draft stock had he returned to school for another year, but Bryant cited his family as the reason he decided to leave. Bryant ended the season with 42 catches for 828 yards and seven touchdowns, but he has been mostly inconsistent for the bulk of his career and has only one year as a starter.

His size (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) makes him an intriguing prospect, but he has work ahead of him to get noticed. ESPN.com does not even have Bryant rated on its receivers evaluation page.

Moving forward, Clemson should have plenty of position battles headed into the spring. Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly and incoming freshman Deshaun Watson are all in the mix to replace Boyd. Without Watkins and Bryant, Clemson will rely on some combination of veteran Adam Humphries, Charone Peake, Mike Williams, Germone Hopper and T.J. Green.

Williams played as a freshman this season and has the same size as the departing Bryan. He showed flashes throughout the course of the season. Green also shows promise. Peake is coming off an ACL injury and should be healthy for the start of the season. Humphries has been dependable and will be expected to do more.

The player who needs to step up most has to be Hopper, rated one of the top receiver prospects in the 2012 class. He has not quite lived up to his potential yet, and 2014 provides him an opportunity to become a go-to receiver. Clemson coaches have waited on the light to go on for him, and that probably is the case again now more than ever.

What Clemson has moving forward is talent, but little in the way of game experience. The key to replacing the three big-name skill players who have departed is to grow these players up in a hurry. The opener at Georgia will be here in a blink.

No. 12 Clemson takes on No. 7 Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl on Friday. Here is a look at 10 reasons the Tigers could beat the Buckeyes.

1. Receiver advantage. Clemson seems to have a clear matchup edge with its receivers, and that could translate into big plays in the pass game. Sammy Watkins has had a terrific season, and he needs nine receptions to break the school career record and two receiving touchdowns to tie the school career record. He has reached 100 yards receiving in seven of 12 games this season and is going to be difficult to stop. Martavis Bryant, at 6-foot-5, gives the Tigers another big-play target. Ohio State has allowed 755 yards passing in its past two games.

2. Ohio State D in flux. Given all the issues the Ohio State defense has had, it is easy to believe the Tigers are in line to take advantage. Defensive end Noah Spence has been suspended for the game, leaving the Buckeyes without their best pass-rusher. Cornerback Bradley Roby is unlikely to play, and there is the possibility three new starters could be in the secondary against the high-powered Tigers.

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AP Photo/Richard ShiroClemson will need QB Tajh Boyd to be at his best against Ohio State.
3. Tajh's time. Tajh Boyd has had one of the best careers in Clemson history, but he did not play his best in losses to Florida State or South Carolina this season, so you have to think he will be extra motivated to finish his career with a win in the Orange Bowl. Boyd is fully capable of winning big games, as he showed against Georgia and LSU. Big-play Boyd needs to show up.

4. Vic Beasley. One of the more intriguing matchups in the game pits Clemson pass-rusher Beasley against All-Big Ten tackle Jake Mewhort. Beasley is tied for third in the nation with 12 sacks, and Mewhort said this week that Beasley presents a "unique challenge." Beasley is built differently from the pass-rushers Mewhort has faced in the Big Ten, using a blend of speed and athleticism to get after the quarterback. If he can disrupt Braxton Miller, Clemson will improve its chances of winning.

5. TFLs. One area where the Tigers have succeeded this season is in tackles for loss. Clemson has 112, which leads the nation, and needs seven more to tie the school record. Clemson must get into the backfield to try to limit the big plays Miller and running back Carlos Hyde can make.

6. Limited Ohio State pass rush? We have seen Boyd get flustered into making mistakes when he is under heavy pressure. But the Buckeyes' pass rush could be severely limited without Spence, who leads the team with eight sacks. Without Spence, more will be placed on the shoulders of freshman Joey Bosa, who has 6.5 sacks on the season.

7. Big plays. Tag this to go along with reasons 1-3. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boyd leads all AQ quarterbacks in completion percentage on throws of 20 yards or longer (55.9 percent) and has 14 touchdowns and two interceptions on such throws. Since 2011, Watkins has scored 17 touchdowns of 30 yards or more, tied for second most in FBS in that span.

8. Andre Williams effect. Clemson players said Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde reminds them of Boston College back Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and rushed for 2,000 yards. But the Tigers held Williams to 70 yards rushing -- one of his lowest outputs of the season -- giving them a boost of confidence going into the game.

9. No turnovers. Coach Dabo Swinney has been preaching for a month now -- no more turnovers. In losses to Florida State and South Carolina, Clemson turned the ball over a total of 10 times. Surely the message has sunk in by now.

10. Chick-fil-A Bowl. The 2012 Orange Bowl performance against West Virginia has been brought up every single day in South Florida, but Clemson believes its win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last season is more indicative of what it can do on a big stage in the bowl game. Being able to win a game like that, against a top school from the SEC, has given this team the confidence to know it can do it again Friday against Ohio State.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is not afraid to make his feelings known. To some, this comes off as trash talk. To others, he is just being honest.

Simply put, Watkins does not hold back. So it should come as no surprise, then, that he told reporters after arriving for the Discover Orange Bowl, “I think I’m the best receiver in the nation. ... Overall I think I can’t be guarded. That’s just my mindset.”

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AP Photo/Richard ShiroClemson's Sammy Watkins, who has 10 touchdown receptions and averaged 14.6 yards per catch, is one of the top receivers in college football.
How Ohio State covers Watkins is one of the biggest keys to watch heading into the Discover Orange Bowl. Many believe Clemson has the unquestioned advantage with Watkins and his fellow receivers, specifically because the Buckeyes secondary has not played up to standards over the last two games.

That advantage seems to have grown even larger with news on Monday that Ohio State could be without starting cornerback Bradley Roby, rehabbing a knee injury. Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell also confirmed the Buckeyes will start freshman Vonn Bell at nickel cornerback.

Three new starters could be in the Buckeyes secondary against the best receiver group they have faced to date, leaving observers to believe Watkins and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd are in line for a big day.

“I think our wide receiver group is top 5 in the country,” Watkins said Monday. “We've been playing good all year, not just catching the ball but blocking, taking care of the little things. We definitely have to come out and put on a show. Their defense is pretty good, but for our offense and wide receivers, we've got a better wide receiver corps than they've ever faced in their conference and we've definitely got to show it when we play them.”

Watkins has shown it all season long, rebounding from a down year in 2012 to have one of the best seasons in the country with 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading the team in receiving yards, receptions, touchdowns, kickoff return yards and all-purpose yards.

Martavis Bryant ranks second on the team with 800 yards receiving and has shown flashes of brilliance. Their size alone -- Watkins is 6-1, Bryant is 6-5 – gives Clemson a huge edge. Fickell said of the receiver group, “The combination of size and speed is something that's really intriguing.”

Add in what has happened the last two weeks to the Buckeyes’ secondary. Ohio State gave up 451 yards in the air to Michigan -- the Wolverines’ second-highest total on the season -- and then 304 yards passing to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. That ranks as the highest passing total for the Spartans since their quarterbacks threw for 322 yards Sept. 8, 2012, in a blowout win over Central Michigan.

Ohio State ranks No. 103 in the nation in average passing yards allowed (259.5 ypg).

It’s easy to see why Clemson is penciled in to have the edge in the matchup.

“I don't think there's a lack of confidence from our DBs. We believe in ourselves,” Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett said. “But this is a chance to prove to the doubters -- a lot of doubters -- that we can play well and I think we have to go out there and prove it.”

Despite what seems to be an edge on paper, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is not one of those doubters. After practice Monday, he downplayed the potential matchup advantage, saying, “People look at things like that statistically and say they're 100th or whatever in pass defense and you immediately say, hey, that's a great advantage. Well, we look at things a little bit differently. We take the curtain back and we see they've had some inconsistency at times, some mistakes and busts which have led to some things but also one of the things is people having to throw the ball because they can't run it.”

Ohio State ranks No. 6 in the nation in rush defense, but if the Tigers can have success passing the ball the way Michigan and Michigan State did, the run element might not matter. Plus, Watkins has vowed to have the best game of his season, in what most likely is his final game for the Tigers.

Though he says he will not make any announcements until after the bowl game, the junior is the highest-rated receiver on the board for the 2014 draft. Still, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris has done his best to pitch Watkins on the benefits of staying. Namely: seniors get to travel first class on team flights.

“I reminded him of that this week as we got on the plane,” Morris said. “I said, ‘Just think, next year, when you get on a plane, you'll be able to sit in first class.’ Like he always does, he grins ear to ear. He's had a great career, and whatever his decision is, we're going to support him.”

Perhaps one final career game in an outstanding career awaits.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is away from his Tigers teammates right now, serving as a counselor at the Elite 11 camp in Beaverton, Ore.

Boyd jumped at the opportunity to help out the next generation of quarterbacks. After all, he was among the Elite 11 group back in 2008. His selection there should come as no surprise. Trent Dilfer, the man in charge of the program, says the counselors are there to "share their life stories, to be examples in the way they engage the kids, with how they compete."

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Joshua S. Kelly/US Presswire"It's all about getting the chemistry in place on my team," Tajh Boyd said, "making sure that we don't have any division out there."
The Heisman Trophy hopeful fits the bill. He has set an example for his teammates back home, as well, as an unquestioned leader. To that end, Boyd has placed a priority on building chemistry this summer, knowing full well his team has an opportunity to achieve something special.

While in Oregon, he told ESPN Recruiting Nation reporter Mitch Sherman, "It’s all about getting the chemistry in place on my team, making sure that we don’t have any division out there. It’s been good. I know the biggest thing with me right now is chemistry with my O-linemen and with my receivers. So any time I get the chance, I’ll take the guys bowling. They break my pockets when we go out to eat, so I stopped that.”

Boyd, never afraid to crack a joke, hits the mark. Chemistry is one of those intangible aspects that is critical to the success of any team. Good chemistry helps teams thrive; bad chemistry, and teams fall apart. Secondly, chemistry between a quarterback and his line, and a quarterback and his receivers is critically important.

Going into this season, Boyd has to develop that chemistry with a new starting center, and a new outside receiver. We all saw last season how Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins were always on the same page. Sammy Watkins enters that role this year. Will their chemistry match the Boyd-Hopkins connection? How will Charone Peake, Adam Humphries and Martavis Bryant develop their chemistry with Boyd?

"Those guys have to step up in their role and take advantage of it," Boyd told Sherman. "It’s exciting. They’re excited about it. Right now, it’s all about putting the work in. What you put in is what you get out of it. I know it’s cliché, but it’s true."

And how will Boyd do with veteran Dalton Freeman gone and sophomore Ryan Norton taking over at center?

Boyd is smart enough to know that he needs the answers to those questions before the season begins.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- The talent has never been a question. Not for Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant.

He stands 6-foot-5, and weights 200 pounds, with great speed and an incredible ability to make plays. All you need to do is check out his yards-per-catch average from 2012: It's a ridiculous 30.5. Of his 10 receptions a season ago, four went for touchdowns.

The maturity? Well, that has been the biggest question, one that has kept him from becoming the breakout receiver most anticipated he would be as one of the top prospects out of high school. By his own admission, Bryant lacked focus, discipline and a proper work ethic.

He slacked off in practice. He slacked off in the classroom. Coach Dabo Swinney warned him to get his act together.

[+] EnlargeMartavis Bryant
AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtMartavis Bryant averaged 30.5 yards per catch in 2012, but didn't have the same success in class.
Bryant ignored him.

Until last December, when Swinney suspended him for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Bryant was forced to watch from home, but more than that, he was forced to be honest with himself for perhaps the first time since arriving at Clemson. He had to change. He had to adjust his attitude and his focus. Or he would no longer have football.

"I was disappointed in myself, and I was disappointed in the fact that I let my team down, I let my coaches down," Bryant said. "I had a long time to think about it, about what I wanted to do and I changed everything around."

He had one more bit of inspiration: two young daughters.

"I can't have them looking back when they get older and saying that I didn't accomplish anything when I had my chance," he said.

So when he returned to school in January, Bryant was a changed man. Before, he was a loner with few friends on the team. He had a tough time trusting people. Now, he talks to all his teammates, and knows more about them. Though he is extremely quiet, he is being more vocal around them. For Bryant, that is a huge step.

Even bigger? He has not missed a class. He has not missed a study hall. In fact, he arrived for this interview 10 minutes early, something he would not have done in the past.

And he has shown up every day in practice, knowing he has a huge opportunity ahead of him in 2013, his junior season, with DeAndre Hopkins gone. In three months' time, Bryant has transformed himself. And the best part of all? He jokes: not getting text messages from Swinney keeping tabs on him.

"I know I'm on thin ice, that's why I don't get in any more trouble," Bryant said. "I just do what I'm supposed to do."

Swinney has noticed, speaking glowingly about Bryant during the spring. But this is only a start. Three months needs to turn into six months, and into 12 months.

Then, the results on the field will follow.

"I just have to keep working in practice and showing how I can do it consistently without messing up," Bryant said. "I'm working on it. I'll be perfect by the time camp comes around."
You can't win 'em all.

Clemson won big on Wednesday when quarterback Tajh Boyd announced he would return for his fifth and final season instead of entering the NFL draft.

The Tigers weren’t so lucky on Thursday.

Receiver DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins, Clemson’s leading receiver and one of the best in the country, announced on Twitter that he will leave school early and enter the NFL draft. Here’s the thing, though -- Clemson’s offense is so loaded with talent that the Tigers should still be just fine without Hopkins, and this announcement should hardly come as a surprise. Even without their record-setting wideout, Clemson still returns players who caught 161 passes for 1,719 yards in 2012.

Hopkins will be missed, but Boyd is still going to have plenty of options.

Despite his inconsistent, injury-plagued season that also included a suspension, Sammy Watkins was second on the team with 57 catches for 708 yards and three touchdowns. He was overshadowed by Hopkins this past fall -- and deservedly so -- but this will give Watkins a chance to remind college football fans what made him so special as a true freshman two years ago. Clemson also returns its No. 3 receiver, Adam Humphries, who had 41 receptions last year. And don’t forget about Charone Peake (25 catches), Martavis Bryant (10 receptions), and Germone Hopper, a talented option who redshirted this past year as a true freshman. Hopper was rated the No. 4 player in North Carolina by ESPN.com and the No. 13 receiver in his recruiting class.

Hopkins was projected to be drafted somewhere between late in the first round to mid-second round. His name is all over the record books. There’s not much more he can do at Clemson besides win a national title and risk injury. He has left his mark.

He has also left plenty of talented teammates behind to try and pick up where he left off.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 5

September, 30, 2012
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It wasn’t a good week for the ACC. Or for the Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech fans who are still in denial. Here’s a look at five lessons learned from Week 5, in no particular order. This post isn’t for the squeamish.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Jonathan Ernst/Getty ImagesFrank Beamer and Virginia Tech will need to end their road funk to become bowl eligible.
1. The Big East > ACC -- for now. With Virginia Tech’s loss to Cincinnati, the ACC dropped to 3-4 against the Big East this year, with losses to Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville. Florida State avoided a letdown against South Florida, but Virginia Tech’s 0-2 record against the Big East this month gives the ACC no room to talk any trash this year. Maryland’s win over Temple and NC State’s win over UConn don’t exactly qualify as bragging rights. Considering the ACC is adding Pitt and Syracuse to the league next year, this is only further ammunition for the Big East against the ACC. You know what they say: If you can't beat 'em, recruit 'em.

2. With the exception of Florida State, the ACC is still the ACC. It seems as though every year, ACC front-runners are losing to opponents they shouldn’t. It’s not just failing to show up on the big stage or in bowl games; it’s also the losses to MTSU, Cincinnati and Louisiana Tech that kill the ACC’s image. If it weren’t for the national title contenders in the Atlantic Division, the point-and-laugh routine would have been even worse this weekend. No. 4-ranked FSU is the only team with a winning league record in the Atlantic Division right now, and Duke and Miami are leading the Coastal Division. Say what?

3. Miami is the front-runner in the Coastal Division. Virginia Tech lost to Cincinnati. Georgia Tech lost to Middle Tennessee. And Virginia lost to Louisiana Tech. Granted, they were all nonconference games, but right now, the Hurricanes are showing more heart than any of them. For the second straight weekend, Miami dug deep and found a way to win a close game, this time a last-minute thriller at home against NC State. It’s Miami’s first three-game winning streak since 2009 and its first 3-0 ACC start since 2004 -- the first season in the conference. The young Canes have exceeded expectations and are playing with an emotion that stems from the top. Al Golden is starting his campaign for ACC's Coach of the Year.

4. Duke is different. The Blue Devils finally got a marquee road win against an ACC opponent, and that in itself is a sign that things have changed under coach David Cutcliffe. Duke’s 4-1 start is its best since 1994, when Duke was 5-0 and went to a bowl game for the last time. Duke snapped a 12-game losing streak to Wake Forest on Saturday and got one step closer to bowl eligibility. Duke has seemingly always found a way to come out on the wrong end of close games, but it finally got over the hump against the Deacs, and it did it with an injury-depleted roster. Duke’s offense is rolling. Duke has scored 185 points through the first five games, the highest five-game total to open a season in school history. Don’t look now, but Duke has the same record as Clemson and Miami.

5. Clemson didn’t “pull a Clemson.” One week after losing an emotional game to Florida State, the Tigers went on the road and beat a tough Boston College team without receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Quarterback Tajh Boyd called a team meeting earlier in the week, and his four touchdowns and 409 yards of total offense made sure it wasn’t just hollow talk. It was an important win for Clemson, which is notorious for its letdowns and crucial to the ACC’s hopes of having two BCS bowl teams for the second straight year. The Tigers also helped the perception of the Noles’ strength of schedule by avoiding a letdown.

Watkins to miss BC game with virus

September, 27, 2012
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Clemson All-America wide receiver Sammy Watkins will not make the trip to Boston College because of an abdominal virus, the school announced Thursday. Second-team offensive guard Kalon Davis pulled a hamstring on Thursday and also will miss the trip. It was announced earlier in the week that wide receiver Martavis Bryant would not travel due to a groin injury.

“Sammy has been practicing, but on Tuesday and Wednesday took himself out late in the practice because he was not feeling well,” said coach Dabo Swinney, according to the school's release. “Today he was worse and after going to the doctor it was determined that he needed to stay here this weekend.

“With Sammy and Martavis out of the lineup we will bring Germone Hopper (freshman wide receiver who has not played this year) with us on the trip. We will only use him in case of an emergency. It is still our intention to redshirt him.”

When Watkins was suspended for the first two games of the season, Charone Peake and Adam Humphries combined for 19 receptions.

Clemson WR Bryant to miss two games

September, 26, 2012
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Clemson wide receiver Martavis Bryant will miss Saturday’s game at Boston College and the following game against Georgia Tech with a groin injury, according to a school spokesman. Bryant, a sophomore, is expected to return for the Oct. 20 game against visiting Virginia Tech.

Bryant was injured while working out in the strength-training facility before practice Tuesday.

Bryant has two receptions for 61 yards this season, and both have gone for scores -- a 22-yard touchdown reception against Ball State and a 39-yard scoring catch against Furman.
Of all the questions surrounding Clemson headed into the season opener against Auburn, depth at receiver is not one of them.

Yet, we still have no idea how much the offense will feel the loss of star receiver Sammy Watkins, who is suspended for two games because of his offseason arrest. Coach Dabo Swinney says the team will not do much to change its plan with Watkins out for Saturday's important nonconference game.

[+] EnlargeCharone Peake
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesCharone Peake will start Saturday's game for the suspended Sammy Watkins.
Sophomore Charone Peake will start for Watkins, alongside established starter DeAndre Hopkins (952 yards last season) and Jaron Brown. The Tigers also expect big contributions from reserve players like Adam Humphries, Martavis Bryant and Matt Porter.

"Collectively as a group we’ve challenged those guys," Swinney said. "They all have to step it up. I don't think one guy replaces Sammy Watkins, but as a group they certainly are capable of doing that."

Peake and Humphries have been asked to line up in various spots during preseason camp to help make up for Watkins being out. That means practicing where Watkins and Hopkins usually play.

"It's not just me, but all the receivers are trying to broaden the knowledge of the offense and what we do out there," Humphries said in a recent phone interview. "I started out as a freshman behind Sammy, but they have been throwing me in the slot. Everyone is moving around. It has been somewhat of an adjustment, but I’m enjoying it. I feel like I’m a guy who can be moved around a good bit."

Peake has shown a great deal more maturity this season than last, when he had four receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Both Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris have noticed a more confident Peake, who is the fastest player on the team behind Watkins.

"It did not come as easy to him last year, the transition from high school to college as far as learning the system and the speed of the game but he's a very talented player," Swinney said. "You could see his confidence growing this spring. He had a great summer and it's carried right into fall camp. He seems comfortable now. I feel he’s going to have a great year for us. He and Adam Humphries fit that same category."

For his part, Peake says he feels like he is playing like he was in high school and has been doing an excellent job making players miss during preseason camp.

"I don't think as much when I play," Peake said in a phone interview. "I'm used to what I’m doing. Last year, things were going too fast for me, but this year I feel more comfortable when I’m in there."

Given the way Clemson wants to speed up its offensive attack this year, it is going to be imperative for every receiver to really catch on to what the Tigers want to do. Having more experienced players in the receiving group will help that, with Humphries, Peake and eventually Watkins going into their sophomore seasons.

That could also allow Clemson to redshirt highly touted freshman receiver Germone Hopper. Swinney does not want to play him unless he absolutely has to.

How the core receiving group does at the outset could go a long way toward determining that. But most everybody in the Clemson camp seems pretty confident the Tigers will survive just fine with their star playmaker sitting at home.

"Without Sammy, we’re going to see a lot more plays and a lot more balls, and we’re going to prove it’s not just Sammy we have, but we have a lot of other playmakers as well," Humphries said."

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage reports

August, 20, 2012
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Not every school in the ACC gives scrimmage reports, but for those that do, we will gladly post the highlights. Here's a look back at what happened in the ACC this weekend, according to each school's report:

Boston College

Offensive highlights: Junior receiver Alex Amidon had seven catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception, in the situational scrimmage Sunday. The scrimmage featured six end-of-half/fourth-quarter situations with limited time on the clock and a limited number of timeouts. Chase Rettig went 18-of-32 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive highlights: Justin Simmons had two interceptions off second-team quarterback Josh Bordner. Manuel Asprilla intercepted Rettig at the goal line, and linebacker Nick Clancy intercepted a Rettig pass that was deflected by Mehdi Abdesmad a few plays later.

Special teams: Gerald Levano punted four times and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt. His first punt landed at the 2-yard line, while his second attempt went 60 yards. Kicker Nate Freese made his only field goal attempt, from 40 yards, and is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in the preseason.

Quotable: “We got a lot of nice young guys on this football team, and if they come through and play well, good things can happen, and Justin [Simmons] is one of them,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’s as advertised. We did our homework and everything that you do on kids. He’s a good prospect.”

Clemson

Offensive highlights: Tajh Boyd threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, while Martavis Bryant had four catches for 97 yards and had two touchdowns. Boyd was 13-of-22 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Cole Stoudt went 4-of-9 for 61 yards and led a touchdown drive on his first possession. Andre Ellington had an 8-yard touchdown run, while Roderick McDowell led all running backs for a second straight scrimmage with 65 yards on four carries.

Defensive highlights: Coach Dabo Swinney praised the defensive line, where Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams made plays. Xavier Brewer made a brilliant breakup of a long pass and added five tackles. Jonathan Meeks added an interception. Tony Steward made a big play with a 25-yard interception return.

Special teams: Williams had a blocked a field goal. Backup kicker Spence Benton made a 53-yard kick that could have been good from 63 yards.

Quotable: “We have two weeks to get dialed in,” Swinney said. “We are going to turn the page on Monday after our last two-a-day (practices) and start getting ready for Auburn. We will have our guys penciled in on where they need to be.”

Duke

Offensive highlights: Quarterback Brandon Connette caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree and ran for another in a 95-snap, controlled scrimmage Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. Renfree went 14-of-21 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Shaquille Powell had eight carries for 30 yards, while Jela Duncan had 28 yards on nine attempts. Garrett Patterson, who moved from defensive back to receiver this week during practice, had five receptions for 80 yards.

Defensive highlights: Cornerbacks Lee Butler and Tony Foster each had interceptions while linebacker Deion Williams recovered one fumble. Freshman defensive end Michael Mann had one sack and one forced fumble.

Special teams highlights: Freshman kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 43 and 48 yards and converted his only extra-point attempt.

Georgia Tech

Offensive highlights: Broderick Snoddy had a 70-yard touchdown run on the second series, while quarterback Vad Lee threw two touchdowns to A-back B.J. Bostic. Lee later added a touchdown run as he continues to work at quarterback and A-back. Synjyn Days and freshman Justin Thomas also took snaps at quarterback, and each led scoring drives.

Defensive highlights: Nick Menocal had an interception he nearly returned for a touchdown. Jimmie Kitchen recovered a fumble, while defensive lineman Anthony Williams had two sacks.

Special teams highlights: Justin Moore had a 29-yard field goal, while David Scully made a 31-yard field goal and all five of his extra-point attempts. There was no punting on Saturday.

Quotable: “The guys are ready to play someone else,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks and all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”

Maryland

Freshman Stefon Diggs continued to impress, as he had three first-half touchdowns -- a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception. Quarterback Perry Hills ran the first-team offense and led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives.

On the opening drive, Hills took the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, He went 5-of-6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.

"I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day," coach Randy Edsall said. "I thought he did some good things. Of course there's going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn't have any issues with delay of game, really didn't have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well."

Miami

The Hurricanes' scrimmage Saturday was cut short in the middle of the second quarter because of lightning in the area. Among the highlights in the abbreviated scrimmage: Mike James and Duke Johnson each had touchdown runs, and Kelvin Cain recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety.

Virginia Tech

Offensive highlights: Logan Thomas went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a score, while backup Mark Leal went 6-of-16 for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kevin Asante led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards, while Corey Fuller caught three passes for 68 yards. The Hokies also rushed for 174 yards. J.C. Coleman played with a broken hand and had 54 yards -- 52 coming on one run -- and Trey Edmunds added 45. Tony Gregory rushed for 36 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run. Projected starter Michael Holmes had three carries for 21 yards.

Defensive highlights: The projected first-team defense allowed a little more than 120 yards in four series (24 plays) and gave up just two field goals. Walk-on Zach Snell had six tackles, while Ronny Vandyke had five. Desmond Frye and Antone Exum each recorded four. The defense had five total sacks and Bruce Taylor had an interception.

Special teams highlights: Cody Journell made two field goals and missed one, while Brooks Abbott made one and had a 37-yarder blocked by Kyle Fuller.

Quotable: “I thought it was one of the more productive offensive first scrimmages we’ve had around here,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we did some good things, and I think we’ll see some things we can improve. Overall, I think the effort was good. I always say this, but it’s hard to come out pleased because if the offense makes plays, you’re worried about your defense. If the defense makes plays, you’re worried about your offense. Overall, I thought it was a good first scrimmage.”

Clemson overloads UNC with options

October, 22, 2011
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- On Monday, Clemson was on fall break and the players were allowed to sleep in before attending an offensive meeting at 10 a.m.

That’s when offensive coordinator Chad Morris woke them up.

“I’ve never seen him that fired up,” center Dalton Freeman said.

Clemson fans might say the same about the Tigers’ offense on Saturday against North Carolina.

Seven different players accounted for touchdowns in Clemson’s 59-38 romp of the Tar Heels, including defensive end Kourtnei Brown, who returned two turnovers for scores. It seemed as if Clemson had more playmakers than North Carolina had defenders on the field. Only one other time in school history -- against Wake Forest in 1981 -- had Clemson scored more points against an ACC opponent. The Tigers’ ability to distribute the ball coupled with the unselfish attitude from playmakers young and old are what has separated the program, now 8-0, from the rest of the ACC this year.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Hopkins
Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireDeAndre Hopkins gashed the Tar Heels' secondary with nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Receiver Sammy Watkins might be the best freshman in the country, but he doesn’t have to be for Clemson to win.

“Today was probably the most complete game we’ve had as far as distributing the ball and sharing the wealth,” quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “There is a lot to go around. If somebody game-plans for this person or that person, we do have other options out there. It’s exciting to see, and that’s probably the most rewarding thing I took from today, was that you come back into the locker room and you see the smiles on these guys’ faces because they are getting shown love. We’ve got too many playmakers. It’s a quarterbacks dream to have those type of players out there.”

Against North Carolina, receiver DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins was Boyd’s favorite target, with nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. He was one of five different receivers who caught touchdown passes, a single-game school record. Even with Watkins drawing the bulk of the attention from UNC’s defense, he still finished with eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.

“I think that’s the key to our success,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “First of all we’ve got really, really good players. We’ve hit some home runs with recruits from that standpoint. … The key for us is it’s not like you can just defend one guy. We have a lot of guys who can make plays. We have a lot of backups who can make plays. We’ve got a quarterback who can pull the trigger and make a decision, and the offensive line is playing some really, really good football. That’s a good combination to have.”

And it’s only the beginning. Clemson has 42 freshmen (redshirt or first-year) among the 85 players on scholarship. The Tigers have played 13 true freshmen, none of whom have had more of an impact that Watkins, but Mike Bellamy and receiver Martavis Bryant have also been key contributors this year.

“You’re going to see that distribution continue to spread, especially next year, because these guys are going to be sophomores and even better,” Swinney said. “There’s not a lot of distance between our skill guys from a talent standpoint. There’s just not much difference at all. That’s a big blessing for us. That’s the bottom line, they know that everybody is going to have an opportunity to make a play in this offense. We’re not sitting there throwing to one guy.”

And if there’s anyone on the roster who still feels the need to be THE guy?

“The door’s right there,” Swinney said. “That’s the least of my worries. I am the last guy to coddle guys. This is a team sport. Our guys know that. It’s one team, one dream. You’re going to have a hard time making it at Clemson if you’re not a team guy.”

And opponents are going to continue to have a hard time stopping Clemson without an extra defender or six on the field.

Recruiting rewind: Clemson

February, 4, 2010
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The recruiting trail was a different experience for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who was much more involved in the entire process this year, having completed his first full season as head coach. One thing that didn’t change was that Swinney helped bring in one of the ACC’s top three classes. It's the fifth straight year that Clemson has finished in the Scouts Inc. top 20.

There isn’t a C.J. Spiller or Da’Quan Bowers highlighting the group, but there are two players from the ESPNU 150 who will add some speed and athleticism to the roster. Four-star wide receiver Martavis Bryant and four-star athlete Garry Peters both have the ability to contribute immediately. Swinney said this class began on Feb. 23, 2008, when Bryant of Anderson, S.C., was the first commitment. Bryant was the first in the class to sign and fax his letter of intent on Wednesday (7:15 a.m.). Swinney said Bryant will wear No. 1 next season.

Bryant and Peters are two of six four-star newcomers in the class of 23. Clemson signed six defensive backs, four offensive linemen, three wide receivers, two defensive tackles, two defensive ends, two tight ends, two running backs and two linebackers.

“It’s an outstanding group of guys,” Swinney said. “We hit every need. ... We really feel like we hit every critical need we had. We’ve come a long way in a year. ... I’m excited about that, and what we’ve been able to do as a staff. We’ve overhauled our recruiting process here and after one year, I’m real pleased with the results.”

Clemson signed seven players from the state of Georgia, the most the program has recruited from that state since 2002. One player who could see the field early is linebacker Justin Parker.

“He’s probably a guy who physically and mentally has a chance to help us early, but it’s a really hard thing to predict,” Swinney said. “We signed three really good wideouts, and I’d be shocked if somebody there isn’t making a contribution, same thing with tight end. We signed four offensive lineman, obviously one guy may step it up there. Our defensive end prospects will have an opportunity to compete, and probably somebody in the secondary. But just singling somebody out would be hard to do.”

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