The most important aspect about being a wide receiver is having the trust of your quarterback. The signal-caller must have faith in the receiver’s abilities to make plays, especially on critical third-downs. Clemson‘s Tajh Boyd has that trust in All-American receiver Sammy Watkins and has had that trust in him ever since Watkins stepped on campus in 2011. So far this season Watkins has 25 receptions for 355 yards with two touchdowns. He has had two games this season where he has gone over the century mark in receiving yards, including a big performance against Georgia. Watkins has been great, but Boyd is still searching for a reliable No. 2 receiver on this team. There have been multiple players that have shown flashes of brilliance, but they have yet to be consistent enough to gain Boyd’s trust in big time situations.
In 2007 Clemson had a potent offense led by quarterback Cullen Harper and numerous playmakers at the wide receiver position. His favorite target was Aaron Kelly who caught 88 passes that year. However, equally important was Harper’s No. 2 receiver, Tyler Grisham, who caught 60 passes on the year. One of the reasons why Clemson’s offense was so balanced and effective that season was because the quarterback trusted more than one receiver and felt comfortable throwing to different guys. In 2011 Watkins was the main target with 82 receptions on the year and DeAndre Hopkins was the second option but still on the receiving end of 72 passes. The following year saw the roles reversed with Hopkins catching 82 passes and Watkins hauling in 57. It comes as no surprise that Clemson broke virtually every offensive school record during those two seasons.
Now Hopkins is playing on Sundays, and it has been an adventure finding out who the No. 2 receiver on this team will be. Starter Charone Peake went down with an ACL injury in practice after the second game which raised even more concerns about the issue. The Tigers have three players that are tied for second on the team in receptions with 12 — Martavis Bryant (189 yards), Adam Humphries (120 yards), and Germone Hopper (109 yards). Bryant had a good spring and fall camp but has been wildy inconsistent with drops and a recent first half suspension against Wake Forest. He is a 6-foo-4 speedster with all the talent in the world, but it seems as if the light hasn’t come on for him yet. Humphries catches just about everything thrown his way, but Boyd rarely targets him down the field. Quick slants and screen passes are what Humphries runs on just about every play. Hopper is a talented redshirt freshman who has been pressed into significant game action due to Peake’s injury and has shown some good signs. However, you can tell he is still developing as a college wide receiver, so some growing pains are to be expected.
This year, more than in years past, it is very important for Clemson to find a true No. 2 receiver, because the tight end play is not as good as it has been in recent memory. There is no Thomas Hunter, Michael Palmer, Dwayne Allen, or Brandon Ford anymore holding down the tight end position. The tight ends are inexperienced this season for the Tigers, which puts more pressure on the wide receivers. There is plenty of talent with this wide receiver group, but consistency must show up throughout the season for the Tigers to keep defenses honest.
Travis Patterson, Writer For ACC Rantsports.com. Follow on Twitter @tpat20. https://twitter.com/tpat20