Clemson junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins seems certain to turn pro. That means the best game of his career came in his final college game.
Watkins (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) put on a show in Clemson's 40-35 thriller over Ohio State in Friday night's Orange Bowl in Miami. Watkins, playing about two hours from his hometown of Fort Myers, Fla., set school and Orange Bowl records for receptions in a game with 16 and receiving yards in a game with 227. He had two TD receptions, including a gorgeous 30-yard grab in which he high-pointed the ball in the end zone.
He was effective on short routes and intermediate routes, showing off his excellent hands and big-time speed. His first TD came on a 34-yarder in which he simply blew past Ohio State's Vonn Bell; the Buckeyes didn't bump him off the line, nor did Bell have help deep, so Watkins ran in untouched.
After the game, Watkins told reporters he will decide whether he will turn pro once he talks to his parents and coaches.
"That's going to be a short conversation with me," said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, who has said he doesn't expect Watkins to return.
Watkins got some help from senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, who against Ohio State's sieve-like secondary went 30 of 39 for 370 yards and five TDs. He did throw two interceptions, including a horrible pick in the final two minutes as the Tigers were attempting to run out the clock. Luckily for the Tigers, the Buckeyes promptly turned it right back over.
Boyd also ran for a team-high 127 yards on 20 carries and scored on a 48-yard burst up the middle; he finished with 497 total yards. Boyd is a tough, physical runner and also showed off better-than-expected speed on the 48-yarder. His decision-making still causes some concerns, though; in addition to the two interceptions, he also was called for intentional grounding while standing in the end zone in the first quarter. That shouldn't happen to senior quarterbacks.
Two of Boyd's TD passes went to junior Martavis Bryant (6-5, 200), who also may have played his final game. Bryant's second TD grab was one of the best plays of the night, as he was interfered with but still grabbed a tipped ball and got his feet in to give Clemson a 34-29 lead with 32 seconds in the third quarter.
Bryant has an excellent combination of size and speed, but he drops a lot of easy passes and has been criticized by coach Dabo Swinney in the past for a lack of focus both on the field and off.
It also might have been the final game for junior defensive end Vic Beasley (6-2, 235), whose quickness gave Ohio State star offensive tackle Jack Mewhort fits all night. Beasley and the rest of Clemson's defensive line were in Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's face all night.