ATLANTA – When meeting with reporters this week in the depths of the Georgia Dome after a practice, Sammy Watkins smiled when discussing how fast the indoor playing surface was playing.
Watkins wasn’t able to experience the fast track earlier this year when Clemson beat Auburn in the building as the freshman All-American was back in Clemson serving a two-game suspension. The suspension and following illness derailed his sophomore campaign.
But this week Watkins sounded like a guy who was not only healthy but one who was enjoying how he was being used in bowl preparation. Why has the native Floridian enjoyed the 15 practices since the end of the season? It’s because he is going to be a bigger part of the game plan.
Said Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris on Saturday:
“We are going to turn him loose,” Morris said. “We expect Sammy to be Sammy. Sammy needs to play well.”
Watkins has to play well for Clemson to have a chance, imo.
Clemson has defeated four ranked teams in Watkins’ career, all coming last season. In those four wins Watkins combined for 25 catches, 400 yards and five touchdowns receiving.
In losses to two ranked teams this year, Watkins combined for 10 catches and less than 100 yards receiving.
Watkins was sensational last fall when Clemson defeated Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech in succession. He has to be that guy again Monday.
“We have had an opportunity to do some things (with Watkins) during the 15 bowl practices,” Morris said. “We are excited about it.”
We wrote earlier this month about how curiously Watkins has been used this season by Morris. Morris explained why Watkins became an afterthought in the offense:
“If was kind of hard trying to evolve into what we really wanted to get into, because with (Watkins’) suspension and then him missing a couple games and being sick,” Morris said. “It was really difficult. And then you get into the meat of your schedule and you had to do what you were doing in making sure you were getting good at something. We have had an opportunity to do some things during the 15 bowl practices. We are excited about it.”
Despite the down season, I remain a big Watkins believer.
He remains a supremely talented individual. You don’t become the third true freshman to be named a first-team All-American, joining Adrian Peterson and Herschel Walker, without being a freak athlete.
And it sounds like Clemson will now give Watkins the workload his talent demands against LSU, which is a smart move.
To me, Watkins will be the best player on the field Saturday night. And any time a team has the best player on the field it has a chance.
Clemson is a 6-point underdog, which seems about right. For the No. 14 Tigers to upset the No. 8 Tigers, Watkins must produce big plays. He must be a threat all over the field. He must open up opportunities for other teammates.He must showcase his rare burst.
Watkins must be what he was in 2011. He must show a national television audience what he could have been in 2012, and what he can be in 2013.
What he can be — what he should be — is a top 10 pick in the 2014 draft and a Heisman finalist. That’s his upside. He must give a glimpse of that cathedral-high ceiling under the roof of the Georgia Dome.
I DON’T BLAME YOU FOR NOT BUYING BOWL TICKETS (AT LEAST THROUGH THE SCHOOL)…
The true value of Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets are seen on Stubhub: $20.
Clemson is forced to sell then for $80 and $90. As a result, Clemson has sold only 9,100 tickets from its 18,000 allotment as we reported earlier today.
Programs have to buy the unsold tickets, though the ACC helps with the expense. ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly tells me each program is responsible for selling 8,000 tickets, after that the cost of buying the unsold tickets is shared by all 12 ACC members.
Still, that any program is forced to buy an unsold ticket is absurd. This should be the bowl’s problem.
College football has to rethink how it sells bowl tickets. HD TV is going to continue to eat into attendance, the secondary ticket market is going to continue offer cheaper tickets, programs can’t keep being forced to buy overpriced products.
What postseason ticket would fans buy?
A seat to a first-round game of a 16-team playoff.