If last season’s shootout game against Florida State could be any indication, it’s that this year’s matchup in Death Valley against Clemson will be just as intense as it was in Tallahassee in 2012. Last season Clemson’s defense proved unable to contain former quarterback EJ Manuel and the Tigers’ offense stalled in the second half.
Now, with the Seminoles’ offense on a roll and Clemson facing an untested yet athletic defense, this game could come down to the play of Clemson’s receivers. Last season, Florida State’s physical corners did enough to challenge Clemson’s receivers at the line in the second half. And the Seminoles won’t be afraid to do so again.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris stated that he was “embarrassed” by the play of his receivers last season, and since the season-ending injury to Charone Peake, all of Clemson’s receivers have stepped up their game. Sammy Watkins leads the pack with 582 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Adam Humphries has come on strong in Peake’s absence to become the Tigers’ second-leading receiver with 319 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Martavis Bryant has become more consistent as the season has progressed and is right behind Humphries with 316 receiving yards and three touchdowns. With many teams so focused on the Watkins threat, Bryant and Humphries have thrived. In the Tigers’ last two games, Humphries has caught 12 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Tajh Boyd is going to need all of his targets to be on their ‘A’ game against this athletic defense.
This game will be an opportunity for Bryant to get another shot on the big stage after failing to record a catch against Georgia in the season opener. Bryant’s 6-foot-4 frame and deep threat ability will be an asset that Clemson must take advantage of early and often. Clemson will also make sure that Humphries channels his inner Wes Welker by using him as a solid option in the short to intermediate passing game. Humphries recorded a career-high nine receptions against Boston College and has performed well in the absence of Peake. Watkins is a versatile threat that Chad Morris, no matter what looks the defense gives him, will find a way to get involved in the game.
In a game with more on the line than the season opener, it will be up to Clemson’s receivers to answer the call. And if their recent performance is any indication, they certainly will.