If fall camp is an indication, Clemson junior wide receiver Sammy Watkins is in for a huge season.
"There's really no comparison in Sammy right now last year to this year," Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris told reporters Tuesday. "He's a lot more explosive and a lot more lean. Very determined and very focused."
Watkins had a tough season in 2012. He was magnificent as a true freshman in 2011 (82 receptions, 1,219 yards, 12 TDs), but suffered through an arrest-related suspension, an illness and nagging injuries last fall to finish with 57 receptions for 708 yards and three TDs.
Watkins said he let off-field issues get to him last season.
"It just made me step up and mature," Watkins told reporters earlier this month. "I just realized that I'm going to make mistakes and I'm also going to face some adversity. It just made me realize I've got to step up and be a leader because I am being watched by everybody."
One reason everybody will be watching is because of some statements Watkins made in an interview with The Greenville (S.C.) News in June. Watkins said he was the top receiver in the nation and pleaded with cornerbacks to use press coverage on him because he doesn't think that tactic will work on him.
He has talked the talk. Will he walk the walk?
"When you look at Sammy in practice, you're like, 'Wow, can't believe what he's doing,' " fifth-year senior tailback Rod McDowell told reporters Tuesday. "Sometimes you have to catch yourself and say, 'Hey, you can't be so shocked at your teammate.' Sammy has had a wonderful camp."
More good news for Morris and senior quarterback Tajh Boyd is that juniors Martavis Bryant and Charone Peake also have looked good in camp. Neither has come close to living up to their recruiting hype (they have a combined 48 receptions in their careers), but they appear to finally understand what it takes to be a big-time receiver. If that carries over to the season, Clemson will have the most athletic receiving trio in the nation.