CLEMSON – Chad Morris did not show any visible alarm over the prospect of being without ACC preseason player of the year, Sammy Watkins, for the first two games of the season when meeting with the media today.
The Clemson offensive coordinator’s confidence comes from the depth of young talent at the receiver position.
“We have one of the best wide receiver groups in the country,” Morris said.
Morris thinks there are a number of options that will ease the short-term loss of Watkins, who will miss the Auburn and Ball State games as he serves a suspension.
One player who could emerge as a deep threat in 2012 and ease the loss of Watkins early in the season in Martavis Bryant, the lithe 6-foot-4 receiver who is one of the fastest players on the team possessing 4.4 second speed in the 40-yard dash.
Bryant demonstrated game-changing ability last season, averaging 24.6 yards per catch, but was inconsistent in regard to his focus and preparation. Morris sees a more mature player early this camp.
“(Last season) he showed that nobody in the country could cover him and then anybody in the country could cover him,” Morris said. “What we have seen to this point is a really good focus about him….. I’m elated about what we’ve seen from him for two days.”
Morris also likes what he has seen from another considerable young receiving talent in Charone Peake. Peake was a rated as a five-star talent by ESPN last season but caught only four passes in his rookie year.
“This spring he gained his confidence back and started looking like the guy he was in high school,” Morris said. “Out here in camp he’s made a lot of good plays.”
There is Adam Humphries, who Morris said has the second best acceleration on the team after Watkins, and who he lamented not using more last season.
And don’t forget about DeAndre Hopkins, who recorded 986 receving yards last season.
“This offense is not just designed for Sammy Watkins,” Morris said.
Steward looks 100 percent
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables raved about what he has seen from linebacker Tony Steward. Venables said Steward appears to be moving without issue following ACL surgery last year that caused him to miss the majority of last season. Venables has also praised the five-star talent from the 2011 class for his grasp of defense.
“He’s in great position,” Venables said. “He knows what he’s doing.”
Venables said Steward will work at weak-side linebacker and compete with Tig Willard and Corico Hawkins.
Morris said reserve offensive lineman Shaq Anthony has been a pleasant early surprise in camp. Morris said his confidence level, drive and interest in learning the offense have all improved. …. Tajh Boyd has lost weight and is near his playing weight of high school and is running well …. Freshman defensive back Travis Blanks has added considerable strength in the offseason and will compete for the starting nickelback role.