CLEMSON — Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney said star receiver Sammy Watkins’ punishment will likely include missing game action, one of a number of topics Swinney covered Tuesday in meeting with the press.
Swinney declined to announce plans for Watkins’ punishment Tuesday other than to say Watkins will likely miss some game time following the freshman’s arrest last month on drug charges.
Clemson begins its season against Auburn Sept. 1 in Atlanta.
“Is there a chance he doesn’t miss any time? Probably not,” Swinney said. “I’m not going to make any decision until we get closer to playing time, and the main reason for that is Sammy has a process he has to deal with; some things he has to fulfill this summer. A lot of that is going to depend on how he responds and so far he has hit a home run in every category of how he has responded to this situation.”
Watkins is expected to be accepted into a pre-trial intervention program that, if completed successfully, will drop charges for a first-time offender. Watkins also has to go through a university process.
In addition to addressing his star receiver’s status, Swinney said former Clemson running back Mike Bellamy could return to the program if he has a productive junior college showing. The troubled back left the school this spring after being declared academically ineligible.
“Yeah, he can come back,” Swinney said “But that’s 100 percent on him. ... It’s disappointing because he made so much improvement in a number of areas, and then for him to come up short academically, it is frustrating because you don’t feel you get to finish the race with him. But if he wants it bad enough, he’ll go get himself back on track and do what he needs to do. If he goes and has a great year and gets himself on track academically and does what he’s supposed to do as a player, then that door is open.”
And when addressing rumors about Clemson’s interest in the Big 12, Swinney said a move to the Big 12 would be the “worst thing” Clemson could do as a program and makes “zero sense.”
Swinney said the Internet rumors of Clemson’s interest in moving to the Big 12 have been “frustrating” to deal with as he has had to reassure recruits that Clemson is committed to the ACC.
“I think there has been a lot of irresponsible blogging and reporting, whatever you want to call it,” Swinney said. “We live in this world (where) somebody hears something from the guy in the third stall down and it’s like, ‘OK it’s fact.’ It’s so far from reality it’s not even funny. We’re 1,000 percent committed to the ACC.”
Swinney said Clemson has an ideal geographic fit in the ACC.
“We have a tremendous footprint to recruit in and play in,” Swinney said. “Look at us last year, we weren’t even ranked, we weren’t even on the radar and we went up to fifth in the country. That just goes to show you what we can do in this conference. Certainly we have to build our brand from an ACC football standpoint but this is an outstanding conference, a conference on the rise.”