Watkins entrenched on first team

Watkins entrenched on first team

CLEMSON - It only took three practices before Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney saw all he needed to see out of true freshman Sammy Watkins.

After that, Swinney said it was pretty obvious the Fort Myers, FL native was going to be one of his three starters at wide receiver when the Tigers open the 2011 season against Troy on September 3.

Swinney told the media following Friday's practice that Watkins, along with veterans Jaron Brown and DeAndre Hopkins are listed first team in the three wide receiver set formations.

"He is a special talent," Swinney said. "We have a lot of talented guys come through here, but the thing I like about Sammy is that he has great intangibles to go with the talent; his work ethic, his toughness, his attention to detail.

"He makes very few mistakes. He studies. You can pick up his notebook and he has pages of notes. He goes home and studies and he ask questions. He is really focused."

Watkins move to first-team as a first-year freshman is the earliest since 1995 when Anthony Simmons moved to a starting linebacker sport after just two days of August practice.

Though Watkins is the only freshman he expects to start at wide receiver, the Clemson coach said he is extremely excited about the future he has at that position. He says Charone Peake, another true freshman, is pushing Brown for a starting spot and has really come along as of late.

"It's going to be exciting to see those young guys play this year," Swinney said.

He is also pleased with what BrYce McNeal has done in camp, and he is glad to have a guy like Marquan Jones in the rotation because he can play all three positions. Then of course, there is Hopkins, who led the team last year with 52 catches for 637 yards.

"We have some pretty good depth there," Swinney said about his receivers. "We have a lot of guys that are going to be able to play. We are going to have to have a good solid rotation. That's one of the areas of this football team where we will have good quality depth."

Swinney says there are still a few jobs that are open as they prepare for Saturday morning's scrimmage in Death Valley. But, the first group is set as far as starters goes.

"We have a lot of second team jobs that are open," he said. "That's kind of what we have to figure out. We have a couple of guys where we are going to have to let them play out at a couple of spots."

Those spots are on the defensive line at defensive tackle, and in the secondary, especially at corner.

"We still have a little competition there (for a starter), but I think Coty (Sensabaugh) has been very, very solid," Swinney said. "He and (Xavier) Brewer are two veteran guys, that if we played today, that's who would start.

"I'm the most pleased with him because he was one of those guys we challenged this spring and he has been really dialed in, and has improved greatly in being physical. He can run and has good ball skill. He has played a lot too, so he has good knowledge. He is has really put it together and seems focused to have a great season."

DeAndre Hopkins missed his second day of practice due to stomach flu. It is one of 18 cases of stomach flu team members have endured so far in the preseason. Bryce McNeal, Tavaris Barnes, and Lateek Townsend also missed practice with the flu. Demont Buice, Mike Bellamy and Brandon Thompson also missed practice with various ailments that are not serious. Bellamy and Thompson should return on Monday.

Clemson will hold its second stadium scrimmage of the summer in the morning before hosting Fan Appreciation Day on Sunday at Memorial Stadium. Fan Appreciation Day starts at 4:30 p.m. and runs through 6:30 p.m.

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