CLEMSON — Pretty nice luxury to have a future fixture on an NFL roster coming off the bench when he’s needed.
At least that’s the way Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney perceives as far as the Tigers’ answer to the loss of receiver Charone Peake to a season-ending knee injury.
“Listen, Adam Humphries is a special player,” Swinney said, in the first of many gushing statements about the 5-11, 190-pound junior Tuesday. “Adam’s going to play in the NFL. I mean, he’s going to play a while in the NFL, if he stays healthy.”
True, the Tigers entered the year top-heavy at receiver, so Peake, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant started while Humphries provided a capable fourth option versatile enough to run short, intermediate and long routes.
Now Humphries is a starter in Peake’s place, an ironic twist considering the way Humphries became a Clemson football player. Three winters ago, Swinney went to Dorman High School in nearby Spartanburg County to scout football players on a basketball court.
“I went to watch Charone Peake, and I couldn’t take my eyes off Adam Humphries,” Swinney recalled. “He was the point guard, just running the show. Defensively, just a terror. That’s when I said, we better take a closer look at this guy.”
Humphries made 41 catches last year, third-best on the Tigers behind Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, but just 15 moved the chains and he had a single touchdown.
In 2012, Humphries made the catch on 78.6 percent of his targets, the best figure among a talented assortment of pass-catchers, according to Marty Coleman, a statistical-minded blogger who contributes to the Anderson Independent-Mail. However, 47.6 percent of those targets were behind the line of scrimmage, thus limiting Humphries’ average gain to 6.8 yards per catch.
“He’s a legit 4.4 guy. Great lateral quickness. And he’s got a passion and a fire for the game that I think all great players have,” Swinney said. “Very unselfish, doesn’t say a whole lot, just a great team guy, and has stepped in every opportunity that he’s had to make play after play after play.
“He just likes to be the guy that nobody hears from, but he just does his job.”
As for Peake, he’ll have surgery shortly before Clemson’s academic fall break, which begins Oct. 14. That puts him on track to return for spring practices, when he’ll likely wear a green non-contact jersey.
The plan is for Peake to retain two remaining years of eligibility via a medical redshirt.
“We’re working on that, and I expect that he will based on the rule that they have,” Swinney said. “I can’t imagine that he would not (get one.)”
The last time Swinney addressed the health of top running back Roderick McDowell, he was being treated for concussion symptoms and would not have played in a game this past Saturday had Clemson been in action.
However, McDowell’s ready for the Thursday trip to North Carolina State.
“He’s good. He’s practiced every day,” Swinney said. “He’s good to go. He’ll start.”
McDowell busted out for 132 rushing yards on 22 carries in the season opener vs. Georgia.
True freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander was scheduled Tuesday evening for another ultrasound to assess his pulled groin, which has kept him off the practice field throughout fall.
He’ll be shelved through the Wake Forest game Sept. 28, and then re-evaluated.
“We’re not ready to make that (redshirt) decision after two ball games,” Swinney said. “But he’s doing good. He did nothing (physically) for six days. He’s a very driven young man, so we kind of had to shut him down.”
Clemson approaches its first test of the season outside Memorial Stadium —– the first of five where opposing crowds will want a piece of the third-ranked Tigers.
“I love playing at home, but there’s nothing like going on the road into a hostile environment,” senior quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “I don’t think if we were ranked 47th or something like that it’d be as big of a game.”
Asked if he relishes facing the disrespected underdog — Clemson’s a two-touchdown favorite over the Wolfpack — Boyd said, “Gotta love it. If you go out there and you’re the hunted, and you eat, that makes it that much better.”
The subject of trash talking was raised Tuesday, particularly in terms of Watkins’ feud with Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner.
With a few weeks to go before No. 3 Clemson hosts No. 8 Florida State, Watkins didn’t shy away from the friendly banter.
“That’s one team that I do talk a lot on, just to keep me going, keep me blocking, physical and being aggressive. And those guys do a great job of doing it back,” Watkins said. “We know it’s all love on the field. We’re all just out there competing.
“But that’s one team that if they had a mic, I’d probably be in trouble.”