The ACC has one of the best known wide receivers in college football in Clemson sophomore Sammy Watkins. But after him, the rest of the league’s top pass catchers don’t yet register on the national radar.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Watkins put forth one of the best freshman campaigns ever in the ACC last season, hauling in 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns for a Tigers’ offense that was almost as good as any in the nation in getting off to an 8-0 start. Watkins also returned a kickoff for a score
Clemson was already loaded with skilled talent on offense. Quarterback Tajh Boyd broke out last season, tailback Andre Ellington ran for more than 1,000 yards, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins broke through with a huge season, and tight end Dwayne Allen hauled in 50 balls. But Watkins was the difference making in Clemson falling short again of an ACC title and actually nabbing its first league crown in two decades.
There is a potential wrinkle, however. Watkins was arrested in early may for possession of marijuana and a controlled substance, and even if it is eventually expunged from his record, something Watkins is trying to work toward, he may still suffer some kind of punishment within the program.
Head coach Dabo Swinney said two weeks ago that Watkins was “hitting a home run” with how he’s responded to the incident. With the opener in Atlanta vs. Auburn, it’s difficult to imagine Watkins being suspended from any game action.
Hopkins, Duke’s Conner Vernon, Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro, Florida State’s Rashad Greene and North Carolina’s Erik Highsmith are excellent receivers that will post big-time numbers this fall. But there are also some up-and-coming wide outs whose names will soon be known to ACC fans.
Among them should be Maryland true freshman Stefon Diggs, who was the No. 2 rated high school receiver in the nation last year and chose the Terrapins over Florida, Auburn and Ohio State. Virginia Tech’s D.J. Coles, Miami’s Allen Hurns, and N.C. State’s Tobias Palmer have opportunities to break through with significantly more responsibility than in previous seasons.