Sammy Watkins came onto the college football scene from Fort Myers, Florida as one of the best receivers in the country, ranked as a four-star prospect and No. 4 at his position by ESPN and as a five-star prospect and No. 5 at his position by Scout.com. In 2011, he took Clemson University by storm, amassing 1,219 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns while also rushing for 231 yards and scoring on a kick off return. He showcased enough ability to be named an AP First Team All-American, joining Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk, and Adrian Peterson as the only freshman to accomplish such a feat.
The New York Giants have Eli Manning. The Dallas Cowboys have Tony Romo (for now, at least), and even the long quarterback troubled Washington Redskins found the future of their franchise in Robert Griffin III. The NFC East should continue to be one of the more competitive divisions in the NFC with the rise of the Redskins last season coupled with the realization that the Giants won't stay down for very long as long as they continue to find talent the way that they do.
Everyone that watches Clemson football is aware of the ability of receiver Sammy Watkins.
He's dangerous anywhere with the football, so long as he's on the field. And with Deandre Hopkins having departed to pursue an NFL career, Watkins will have the opportunity to shine as the primary receiver.
But with teams sure to roll their coverage to contain Watkins, he will need help from his supporting cast of receivers. Luckily for him, Clemson happens to have a cast that is among the best in the ACC and arguably in the nation, and these supporting players' roles will be expanded in 2012.
First, we have rising junior Charone Peake.
This Moore, South Carolina native has been patient, waiting in the wings behind the now departed Jaron Brown, but got more playing time due to Watkins' suspensions and injuries last season. Peake flashed his ball skills and was reliable with his opportunities, catching 25 balls for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He has an opportunity to be a bigger part of the offense this season and could get more single-coverage looks due to the presence of Watkins.
In 2011, Clemson's breakout player was quarterback Tajh Boyd and then All-American freshman receiver Sammy Watkins. Last season, it was DeAndre 'Nuk' Hopkins, the unquestioned No. 1 receiver who made opposing defensive backs pay week after week. By the end of the season, Hopkins had racked up 1,405 yards with 18 touchdowns.
But who will break out for Clemson in 2013?
On offense, everyone knows what to expect of the main duo in the record-setting quarterback Boyd and the dynamic Watkins at receiver. But this offense, even without Hopkins on the outside or All-ACC running back Andre Ellington in the backfield, still remains one of the most dangerous in the country.
A lot of eyes are on the remainder of the receiving corps. Charone Peake, who filled in nicely during Watkins' absences in 2012, could take that next step as a starter. With both Hopkins and Jaron Brown both gone, Peake is the favorite to win one of those two positions.
16 carries for 181 yards, with two touchdown runs of 20 and 56 yards. The thing is, these numbers weren't made by Minnesota Vikings MVP running back Adrian Peterson. They were made by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who made the game against Green Bay his coming out party in the playoffs by guiding the 49ers to a 45-31 win.
The biggest difference in the game: the Packers' inability to stop the zone read. The Packers' linebackers, Erik Walden in particular (who is now with the Indianapolis Colts), were unable to contain the 49ers' powerful running game and the dual-threat ability of Kaepernick, who beat them with his arm as well as his legs. And defensive coordinator Dom Capers was unable to adjust and get the 49ers potent offense off the field, and this game left his future with the Packers uncertain.