Quick Pre-Camp Assessment--The Receivers

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 15: Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins #6 of the Clemson Tigers catches a touchdown pass in front of defensive back Cameron Chism #22 of the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at Byrd Stadium on October 15, 2011 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

We started with some pre-camp teasers (yes, camp has officially started but we won't know a thing until they get deeper into this exercise) and continue with the wide receivers. This is a group that evolved greatly over the Swinney's tenure, going from the a dumpster fire and real liability to a consistent, lethal weapon last season.

We graded them and their position coach (Jeff Scott) out back in February. I am still amazed at the transformation of this group year over year. In '10, only (then freshman) Nuke Hopkins was reliable; everyone else ran crap routes, appeared to give a piss poor effort, couldn't catch a cold naked in Alaska. One year (and one meticulous offensive coordinator) later, Clemson upgraded talent through recruiting and demanded its veterans get even better. Gone in '11 were the repeated drops and half-assed blocking efforts. These were replaced with explosive scoring plays and excellent effort on the perimeter.

Again, I'll lump the tight ends into this evaluation because these guys are often flexed and used extensively in "non-traditional" tight end roles within The Chad's offensive scheme. Here are the statistics from the 2011 campaign:

#

Player

Pos

GP/GS

Rec

Yards

Y/Rec

Rec/G

Y/G

TD

20+

LG

2

Sammy Watkins

WR

13-10

82

1219

14.9

6.3

93.8

12

19

65

6

DeAndre Hopkins

WR

14-11

72

978

13.6

5.1

69.9

5

13

50

83

Dwayne Allen

TE

14-14

50

598

12

3.6

42.7

8

7

54

18

Jaron Brown

WR

14-12

31

406

13.1

2.2

29

4

3

29

16

Adam Humphries

WR

14-2

15

130

8.7

1.1

9.3

0

0

18

80

Brandon Ford

TE/WR

14-1

14

166

11.9

1

11.9

2

3

50

1

Martavis Bryant

WR

14-2

9

221

24.6

0.6

15.8

2

5

54

19

Charone Peake

WR

14-0

4

71

17.8

0.3

5.1

0

1

24

9

Joe Craig

WR

7-0

3

18

6

0.4

2.6

0

0

13

11

Bryce McNeal

WR

3-1

1

8

8

0.3

2.7

0

0

8

26

Marquan Jones

WR

13-0

1

6

6

0.1

0.5

0

0

6

86

Sam Cooper

TE

14-0

1

18

18

0.1

1.3

0

0

18

Total

283

3839

13.6

20.2

274.2

33

51

65

Of the guys listed above, only Jones (graduation), Craig (dismissal), McNeal (transfer), and Allen (Indianapolis Colts) won't be around this season. The biggest loss for this group was unarguably Dwayne Allen foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Brandon Ford will have to step up and fill this void. This requires improved interior blocking though I am comfortable with Ford's route running and catching abilities.

As for the wide receivers, Clemson features arguably the best group of receivers in school history and certainly a crew that most any team around the county would love to have. This group is led by ACC preseason player of the year Sammy Watkins. Sammy is the real deal, we all know that. This man can catch, block, run proper routes, and has ridiculous speed. He is a highlight reel who will be a star at the next level. He'll surely get his touches following his two-game suspension to kick off the season.

Even without the Heisman candidate, this Clemson receiving crew is loaded with weapons. DeAndre Hopkins participated in a football-only offseason workout program this offseason. Nuk comes into this season as a flat out football stud. His coaches and teammates have marveled at his effort, improvement, and drive through spring and summer. This young man should have a huge year, hopefully flying past the 1000 yard mark in his junior season.

Jaron Brown stepped up last season after an unimpressive start to his collegiate career. When Clemson needed a big grab and threw his way, Brown responded. The improvement was highly noted here and we expect Jaron to again be a guy who Tajh can depend upon to make some key catches.

We questioned bringing in Adam Humphries and appear to be wrong in that questioning. Humphries was the spark plug that got the Clemson offense going in the Wake game and was dependable when called upon. Morris and Swinney love this guy and have repeatedly stated that they want to get him on the field more with the only issue being the vast amount of talent our Tigers have at this position.

Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant are the sophomores I am really watching. Both came into camp last season with a tremendous amount of hype...Bryant as a physical specimen and Peake as one of the country's most prized recruiting prizes in the '11 class. Peake will settle into the collegiate game, no doubt. I believe most people had extreme expectations for Peake his freshman year, which is unfair for a guy making so many adjustments. By season's end, I expect Peake to be a dependable receiver who will be a major part of the '13 Clemson offense if he doesn't have a breakout year in ‘12. Bryant contributed early in ‘11, using his speed not only for the big catch but also to draw penalties against opposing defenders who couldn't touch his speed. This Clemson coaching staff has to find a way to get the ball into his hands...he is just too good of a pure athlete not to, especially showing off his wheels streaking down the sidelines.

Zac Brooks and Germone Hopper are two highly touted freshmen entering the program this season. As we've said before, this is a position that Clemson is stacked at so the staff should be picky with these guys. We'd like for both to redshirt but right now project Brooks to avoid such. While Brooks definitely needs to bulk up, his versatility and Mike Bellamy's departure from the team may require quality snaps this season. Both these guys have the talent to be huge contributors to this program but such expectations are still a couple seasons away.

In short, this is should be a jam up group of guys. Morris demands they both block and catch the football, which they responded to well one year ago. This group is so deep that they should be able to pick up the slack Sammy leaves against Auburn--though I'll save that conversation for another day. The concern I have with receiving the football has more to do with the offensive line than the receivers. It is critical that the guys up front give time and protection in the passing game so that Clemson can utilize developing routes to stretch the field and keep defenders honest. Otherwise, there will be little choice but simple three step routes and wide receiver screens due to Tajh being under extreme pressure.

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