Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins burst onto the national scene in 2011 with a record-setting performance.
After a fantastic freshman season that saw him catch 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, Watkins suffered somewhat of a sophomore slump with off the field issues and injuries limiting him to only 57 catches for 708 yards and three touchdowns. His season came to a disappointing conclusion when he was knocked out of the Chick-fil-A Bowl with a leg injury on the first play from scrimmage.
Clemson comes into 2013 as one if not they favorite to win the ACC especially with Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd back on offense. Watkins spoke with me by phone earlier this week.
Q: What is your focus going into spring ball?
Sammy Watkins: My focus is being consistent and working with all of the guys on becoming a physical player.
Q: Do you have any goals going into 2013?
SW: Not at all. I’m just trying to be a team player and trying to get to the next level. We beat LSU, now we’re just trying to win a national championship and get on the bigger stage. I don’t have any individual goals.
Q: What did you learn from that bowl win last season?
SW: Yeah, when you’re out on that field, just give it your all because your career or season can be taken away with one play. … It was a great experience. We beat the No. 9 or No. 8 team in the country, we won the Chick-fil-A Bowl and we beat an SEC team so obviously we were pretty happy. I was disappointed that I got hurt, but at the same time, it was a team accomplishment.
Q: You and Tajh Boyd will be the focus of the offense this season, what’s your relationship with Tajh like?
SW: We connected my freshman year and we did a little bit more my sophomore year. I think we still have a connection, we just have to work on some little things like timing and stuff like that, but most of the time he knows what I’m doing and I know what he’s doing. I know what he’s thinking at all times. We’re still clicking.
Q: What did you learn from DeAndre Hopkins?
SW: He just worked hard at all times. He just gave his all and he finished plays … Every ball that came at him, he basically caught it. At every opportunity, he just made plays. He finished plays as well. A great blocker. Works hard in practice and that just carried on to the field. He was a great player all around.
Q: Best feeling – breaking off a long touchdown run on a reception or on a kickoff?
SW: I think a kickoff return actually because you can change the game. The momentum is coming to your side. The defense got a stop and the offense is ready to score again. So I would say kickoff return.
Q: Clemson opens the season against Georgia. How important is it for you and the team to make an early statement, especially against an SEC opponent?
SW: It’s very important. They’re a top ten team and we’re going to be a top ten team. It’s going to be a great ACC/SEC showdown. It might be [ESPN’s] GameDay, but it’s going to be a challenge to go against a great quality team and seeing what we can do in our first game. How disciplined and well-coached that we are and how we can play against a great, physical team. It will be a great challenge.
Q: Some people have mentioned you as a possible Heisman Trophy contender, is that something you think about?
SW: Man, honestly I don’t. I have so many awards that I got my freshman year, that I honestly don’t focus on that. I haven’t seen those awards yet since I got them. They are back home at my parent’s house up in a case, but I’m not focused on that. I’m more of a team goal-person, trying to win a championship, trying to win 12-games, trying to win the ACC … that’s the type of person that I am. It’s a good accomplishment that you win individual awards, but it’s a better experience with your team.
Q: How important is it to become a leader on this team?
SW: It’s big now because from my ninth to 10th grade, my freshman and sophomore years, I was a quiet guy. I just try to lead by example. Now, I have to take that role and speak up a little bit. Not speak as much, but when I have to speak … If I see a problem, I have to speak up and tell the guys, ‘Let’s go. Let’s pick it up, man. You’ve got to watch film’ and stuff like that. I wasn’t that guy, but now I have to be. I have to transition into that guy and become a better leader. That’s why last year, I was too quiet. I was too nonchalant, but now I have to step up and come out of my comfort zone.
Q: Has Dabo Swinney talked with you about that or is that something you’ve taken upon yourself?
SW: That’s just something I took upon myself. I literally looked at the things that I didn’t do and things that I should do. … I didn’t approach the season with the same attitude that I did my freshman year. That’s what I think I lacked last season. I wasn’t complacent or big-headed, but I didn’t prepare the right way.
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