CLEMSON — Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins has had a quiet first-half of the season, missing three games, and posting modest numbers when he has played.
Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said don’t expect Watkins to be quiet much longer.
“I think you are going to see Sammy Watkins peak at the right time,” Morris said. “He’s got to be a part of the offense and he will. … It’s not that we are not calling plays for him, it’s just that it is not there right now.
“It’s got to come natural. You can’t force it.”
Watkins has not had a 100-yard receiving game in his last seven games played. He had five 100-yard games in the first nine games of his career.
Part of the slowdown is related to defenses focusing more on the first-team All-American of last season. Florida State played press coverage and kept two safeties back to help their cornerbacks. Georgia Tech also played with two deep safeties against Clemson.
Virginia Tech, who No. 14 Clemson hosts at noon Saturday, has typically not played with two deep safeties.
“He kind of surprised people (early in his freshman season),” Morris said. “After those first five, six, seven games, everyone knew who Sammy Watkins was.”
Watkins’ playing shape might also be contributing to his slow start. Watkins did not practice with the first-team offense the last few weeks in August due to his early-season suspension and he did not play at Boston College due to an illness that Morris said began affecting Watkins at Florida State. Morris said Watkins has lost between five and eight pounds.
“He is not quite at that in-shape level that he needs to be at,” Morris said. “I hope this week is a little more different.”
For the record, Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ nickname is “Nuk” not “Nuke.” Hopkins said he took on the nickname in his early years because there were three DeAndres in his neighborhood and he preferred the Nuk brand of pacifiers.
“It’s what my mother starting calling me and it became a neighborhood name,” Hopkins said.
Would he like to change the nickname?
“It’s too late. … I tell people I got it because I’m like a nuclear bomb.”
Clemson starting defensive ends Malliciah Goodman and Corey Crawford have combined to play 539 snaps this season, neither player has a sack.
Fosters’ defense still tough
Morris said Bud Foster’s Virginia Tech defense looked more like the physical, aggressive defense ACC teams have come to know over the last decade against Duke than the one that struggled earlier this season.
“You can definitely tell after analyzing the Duke game that it is a different defense in so far as the way that they are playing ... the effort level,” Morris said. “Bud Foster will have them ready to play, I promise you that.”
Morris said he spent the bye weekend mostly removed from football except when he worked the chains at his son’s football game with fellow Clemson assistant Danny Pearman ... Clemson running back Andre Ellington said he is completely healthy as he prepares to enter the second half of the season ... There are a limited number of tickets available for the Virginia Tech game Saturday. Tickets can be purchased at ClemsonTigers.com or by calling 1-800-Clemson.