CLEMSON - Funny thing about quarterback Deshaun Watson's perceived impact on the wide receivers who officially committed to Clemson last month.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Clemson's early-enrolled wide receivers taking part in spring practices, with a quick scouting report from junior receiver Charone Peake
Demarre Kitt, 6-1, 195, Fayetteville, Ga.
Peake says: "Very smart and very athletic. He knows the playbook really good. He answers questions in the meeting room you wouldn't think he'd be able to answer."
Kyrin Priester, 6-1, 185, Lilburn, Ga.
Peake says: "He's very athletic, fast, good with the ball."
Artavis Scott, 5-11, 185, Oldsmar, Fla.
Peake says: "He's a burner. He's really good. Very mature on the field."
Demarre Kitt, Artavis Scott and Kyrin Priester have a reasonably better chance to help the Tigers win in 2014 rather than down the road.
"They look good early," said junior wide receiver Charone Peake, still recovering from a knee injury suffered last fall. "Most guys come into fall camp and it's hard to get all the playbook in. I'm glad they came in early to get it in. We need those guys next year."
Watson's the trumpeted future face of the program, but he's also a decided underdog to win the starting job just eight months after reaching campus. Senior Cole Stoudt and/or redshirt sophomore Chad Kelly are the safer bets.
Wide receivers share the field, it's easier for rookies to play right away, and there's just as massive a void to fill. Tajh Boyd needs his quarterback successor, but life after Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant isn't exactly an easy pill to swallow.
Enter Priester, who was sent to prep school in Virginia after failing to academically qualify in 2013, plus fellow early enrollees Kitt and Scott out of high school - and the U.S. Army All-American game Jan. 4.
"They're going to be good freshmen, but they're going to be really, really good career players here, barring any injuries or setbacks," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "Because they have all the qualities you could possibly want - very coachable and different in their own ways."
Priester and Kitt are each cross-training at Clemson's "5" and "9" spots on the field, which is respectively where Watkins and Bryant lined up the last few years. Particularly for Kitt, a top-200 recruit at all positions, opportunity beckons since sophomore Germone Hopper is being held out for the rest of spring practices to focus on academics.
"Demarre is going to remind a lot of people a little bit of a Nuk (DeAndre) Hopkins type of guy," Swinney said, referring to Clemson's 2012 leading receiver. "He's not as long or gangly as Nuk, but he's slinky and smooth like Nuk. He's got a great knack for getting his body in position to make plays."
Priester made the most of his one year at Fork Union Military Academy, earning the No. 3 national prep school player ranking from 247Sports.com. He's the same 6-1 height as Kitt (and, for that matter, Watkins), bringing with him a blend of speed and toughness.
As for Scott, he's backing up veteran Adam Humphries in Clemson's "2" spot. He's not the biggest receiver (5-11, 185), but he's one of the fastest.
"Artavis reminds me a lot of Jacoby (Ford)," Swinney said. "More polished than Jacoby at this stage coming in out of high school. Not quite as fast - there's not many human beings as fast as Jacoby - but that's who he reminds me of."
For Humphries, the most experienced of Clemson's returning receivers, it's not a question of playmaking or natural ability.
"They're making plays left and right out there. It's more about, can we rely on you from play to play?" Humphries said. "With our tempo offense, are they going to be able to run back and do what you're supposed to do? That's really what we have to see from them."
But physically? Not an issue for the young trio.
"Definitely, definitely, all those guys look good," Peake said. "They look like college players already."
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