CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney was a wide receiver on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team. He coached receivers at his alma mater and at Clemson. He has been around the position, playing it or coaching, for more than two decades.
Clemson’s receiving corps this coming season has a chance to be the best Swinney has ever been around. The group will enter the season in the discussion for distinction as the top receiving group in the country along with other programs like Southern Cal and West Virginia.
“I’ve been coaching receivers a long time and this group is special,” Swinney said. “If they stay committed, if they stay humble and focused and hungry, they have a chance to be really, really special. I think all of them have a chance to play at the next level if they develop.
“Best in the country? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t trade them for anybody.”
The group has a star in Sammy Watkins, who would have been a top “five to seven” overall pick in this year’s draft if he were eligible, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. After a 1,219-yard, freshman All-American campaign last season, Watkins is on Sports Illustrated’s Heisman watch list.
Watkins’ could face disciplinary action for his arrest Friday for possession of marijuana and two pills for which he did not have a prescription.
The top-end talent does not end with Watkins in what could be Clemson’s deepest receiving pool in program history.
DeAndre Hopkins is bigger, faster and stronger after tallying 978 yards last season and showed his improvement by catching five passes for 105 yards in the first quarter of the spring game.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said speedy 6-4 rising sophomore receiver Martavis Bryant is “very, very inconsistent,” but he also shows flashes of stardom like his leaping pluck of a 19-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Martin Jenkins for a touchdown in the Clemson spring game. Bryant was second on the team in 40-yard dash competitions this spring, ahead of Mike Bellamy and trailing only Watkins.
Rising sophomore Charone Peake dealt with injuries and inconsistency last year, but the 6-4 receiver has immense talent and was compared to a younger A.J. Green by ESPN’s recruiting services last year.
The sure-handed Jaron Brown returns and Morris also has big plans for the ultra-quick and Velcro-handed Adam Humphries this fall.
“He’s a guy we have to get more involved,” Morris said.
What Swinney likes is not only the talent but how the receivers complement each other. Bryant has the speed to threaten defenses deep. Hopkins has the hands, size and body control to excel as an intermediate threat. Humphries has the quickness to separate in the short passing game, And Watkins, well, he can do everything.
“They complement each other well,” Swinney said. “That’s really what you need when you build a corps, same thing at running back you want guys that can do different things.”
And unlike last summer when freshman like Watkins had yet to arrive on campus, the entire corps will be working with Tajh Boyd this summer.
“It’s going to be great,” Hopkins said. “It’s all about chemistry out here on the field. It’s going to help out a lot.”
When talking about his targets quarterback Tajh Boyd can only smile.
“It’s been great,” Boyd said. “I’m excited to see these guys in game situations.”