CLEMSON - Dabo Swinney is all about cleaning up the game of college football, but not at the expense…
Watkins assesses offense
Following a down 2012 marked by suspension and injuries, Watkins has re-emerged as one of the ACC's top receivers in 2013.
Entering Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at Maryland, Watkins has 44 catches for 650 yards and five touchdowns. He averages 92.9 yards and 6.3 receptions per game, both fourth among ACC receivers.
But Charone Peake's season-ending torn ACL has badly hurt receiving depth: a true No.2 option to Watkins has yet to emerge.
Junior Adam Humphries has 25 catches for 331 yards and two scores, while fellow junior Martavis Bryant has 25 catches for 362 yards and three touchdowns. However, both have been inconsistent from game to game. Humphries had three catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns at Syracuse, but has three games with two catches for 20 yards and no touchdowns combined. Bryant has only one game with more than four receptions in seven tries.
If one could emerge as a true deep threat worthy of respect from opposing secondaries, it would help Watkins as well. But he has no problem with extra pressure on his shoulders.
"I like the pressure," he said. "I've got to make plays, it's a good thing knowing the ball is coming to you. A lot of young guys have to step up on the field. Defenses run a lot of different coverages, eliminate me touching the ball. Martavis, a lot of wide receivers have to make plays now. I'm not saying they're not capable. We've got to get back in the game plan, focus on the little details."
Watkins says he's pushing his fellow wideouts to be better, too.
"I tell them I need their help," he said. "I think they've been stepping it up, doing it the last seven weeks. But I don't think I played my best (against Florida State). No one did. I've still got a lot to prove."
Still, Watkins was by far the Tigers' top receiver on the field against the Seminoles, catching eight passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Bryant had three receptions for 46 yards, but none in the first half. Two of those catches came in garbage time in the fourth quarter with Clemson down 40 points. Humphries had one reception for 12 yards.
Watkins thinks the problems in Clemson's offense – 21 offensive points and six turnovers in the past two games – are easily correctable. The devil, it seems, is in the details.
"All 11 guys have to be on the same page," he said. "Offense, it's just one mistake every time, it's not 11 people. We've just got to get it right, and back doing the little things right. Work on doing the little things right, we'll be fine. That's what we're doing this week. Back to the basics of offense. Running the ball, passing the ball, just learning how to run plays, not trying to have mistakes on the field."
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris' guidance, he said, will help.
"Every play someone's busting and doing something opposite of what he's supposed to. We get that solved in the meeting room, on the field," he said. "Coach Morris did a great job (Monday). If he saw something wrong with a play, we started it all over. I think that is going to eliminate the problem."
Visiting Maryland could also help cure the offense's ills.
Two years ago, the Terrapins built a 35-17 third-quarter lead before Clemson and Watkins rallied. The Tigers outscored Maryland 25-3 for a 42-38 lead, only to see the Terrapins take the lead right back.
Then came Watkins' backbreaking 89-yard kickoff return touchdown straight down the left sideline. Clemson never looked back in a wild 56-45 win. Watkins wound up with 345 all-purpose yards, setting a program single-game record.
This time around, injuries have taken a toll on the Terps' secondary; Maryland is starting true freshman William Likely at one corner spot.
"They're definitely a different team by watching them on film. They're a totally different defense this year. They have a lot of young guys in the secondary that want to match up with the offense and prove a point," Watkins said. "From an offensive point we've got to really come out there focused and prepared, and get over (Florida State).
Nothing would be better than a balanced, impressive performance in College Park.
"Hopefully we can come and have 500, 600 yards and show the country that we can still perform," Watkins said. "(Rise) in the BCS and get everyone's attention in the national rankings."
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