To help get you through college football’s slow days of late June and early July — before conference media days launch the preseason festivities — we’re counting down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn.
CLEMSON’S NO. 2 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
SAMMY WATKINS, JUNIOR, WIDE RECEIVER
Let’s let the quarterback speak for his most cherished offensive weapon: “Honestly, this has been the best summer I’ve seen him have so far. He’s been working as tirelessly as I’ve ever seen him work. And he knows how important he is to this program.” That was Tajh Boyd, on June 18, telling the guys on ESPN Radio how Sammy Watkins plans to rebound from a down season … which, of course, still reflected stats 80 percent of college receivers would chew through rope to have.
Because he missed the first two games of 2012 due to suspension related to his offseason drug arrest, which let DeAndre Hopkins bust out and become the team’s top target, Watkins never felt the rhythm nor the rhyme like he did in 2011, which saw him record a ridiculous 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. (The list of AP first-team All-Americans in their true freshman year: Herschel Walker, Marshall Faulk, Adrian Peterson, Sammy Watkins. That’s a pretty good list.) So while that pace was pretty much unrepeatable, Watkins battled some adversity while tallying barely over half the catches and yards while falling to just three touchdowns in eight full games last year. He was knocked out of the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on the second play from scrimmage when Barkevious Mingo fell on his ankle, which should only prove to fuel his fire. Hopkins covered up the blemishes last year. He’s no longer here. Sammy Watkins has to be Sammy Watkins – the freshman year version – for the Tigers to reach their dreams.
Position: Wide Receiver
Height/weight: 6-1, 205
Hometown: Fort Myers, Fla.
Last year: 57 catches, 708 yards, three touchdowns in 10 games; set a school record with 202 yards at Wake Forest, but only had one other 100-yard game
Previously: No. 12 Jr. DT Grady Jarrett, No. 11 Jr. LB Stephone Anthony, No. 10 Fr. TE Jordan Leggett, No. 9 Jr. RT Gifford Timothy, No. 8 Fr. CB Mackensie Alexander, No. 7 Soph. FS Travis Blanks, No. 6 Jr. WR Adam Humphries, No. 5 Jr. DT Josh Watson, No. 4 Jr. DE Vic Beasley, No. 3 Sr. LB Spencer Shuey
COMING SUNDAY: The No. 1 Most Valuable Tiger of 2013