GREENSBORO, N.C. – When Florida State comes to Death Valley, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins will feel the pressure. Literally.
LaMarcus Joyner promised the Seminoles’ defense would make sure of that on Oct. 19, getting fairly fired up Sunday at conference media days when asked about Watkins’ playmaking ability and his stature as a former All-American wide receiver for Clemson.
He, in fact, was even giggling at the notion it wasn’t possible to knock Watkins off his route by challenging him at the line of scrimmage.
“Anybody can be pressed. Sammy Watkins is a man,” Joyner said. “Yes, he can be pressed. He can be pressed a lot sometimes. I mean, he’s a man. That’s how I feel about that.”
The 5-foot-8, 187-pound Joyner is a two-time all-ACC strong safety and kick returner (including first-team honors in 2012), but he expects to play more cornerback in place of first-round NFL draft pick Xavier Rhodes.
In last year’s 49-37 FSU victory in Tallahassee, paving the way for the Seminoles’ ACC Championship, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Watkins had just six catches for 24 yards, his lowest total distance in any game he started and finished during his two years at Clemson.
“We’ve got more guys that can press like Xavier Rhodes,” Joyner said. “Sammy Watkins may be a different guy this year. Look at his freshman year, look at his sophomore year. Did the production drop off? Yes. He was the same person, but he wasn’t the same player.
“Yes, he’s Sammy Watkins. That’s a name entitled to a man who straps on his pads like the other 10 guys that I have on my team starting with me. There’s no fear at Florida State.”
Joyner clearly was unimpressed by Watkins’ sophomore slump – his numbers dropped from 82 catches to 57, 1,219 yards to 708, and 12 touchdowns to three from 2011 to 2011.
“I don’t think he’s a guy you can defeat on paper, because he’s going to get his,” Joyner said. “So you have to compete, and let him know we’ve got guys in this program just as good as you. That’s the standard we set at Florida State.”
With Watkins’ fellow stud receiver DeAndre Hopkins gone to the NFL along with Rhodes, Joyner wasn’t having any of the preseason hype going Clemson’s way.
“Clemson lost a few players. We’ve still got some of the same guys,” Joyner said. “Clemson may not be the same team they were last year, because you’re never the same from this year to the next. Who’s to say Clemson’s going to be the same dominant team as last year? Nobody knows. It’s all expectations.”
Actually, Watkins launched the first verbal punch of the offseason a little less than a month ago. He had some strong words on June 30 telling the Greenville News about seeing more press coverage his junior season.
“I would love for that to happen,” Watkins said in the interview. “Teams don’t press me. Most of them get in coverage 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage, and I’m like, ‘Come on now, if you’re gonna cover me, be brave a little bit, come up on me, be physical at the line of scrimmage.’”
Watkins said “let’s see if they do it again” in regards to Florida State’s pressing tactics last year.
“I pray that they do. I want to be pressed at the line on every play. I want them to try to know what I’m going to do before the play, because they will never know – they can’t know,” Watkins told the newspaper. “I know one play against (Florida State), they had three guys covering me on one pass play and I made the catch.
“I don’t believe anybody can cover me one-on-one. I just hope everybody tries it.”
Watkins had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in his only other previous FSU game (which Clemson won 35-30 in Death Valley during its 2011 ACC Championship run.) He isn’t expected to meet with team reporters until at least fall camp begins Aug. 1.
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