Swinney: Receiver Watkins could play against Auburn

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney did not rule out playing star receiver Sammy Watkins in the opener against Auburn on Sept. 1.

SENECA — Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney did not rule out playing star wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the opener against Auburn on Sept. 1 when asked about the sophomore’s status on Tuesday.

Swinney said he has not made a decision on a punishment for Watkins, who was arrested on drug charges in the spring. Swinney said last month any punishment would include gametime.

“He will sit,” Swinney said Tuesday. “It’s just a matter of how long.”

Swinney said he will wait several more weeks before determining Watkins’ punishment for his April arrest on marijuana and controlled substances charges. Swinney is awaiting to see if Watkins’ clears his post-arrest benchmarks.

Watkins set a number of school and ACC receiving records as a freshman last year when he caught 82 passes for 1,219 yards. Watkins is not on the Biletnikoff Award watch list due to his arrest and the award’s policy. Watkins is on several publications’ Heisman watch lists this summer.

Warp speed

Though Clemson finished second in the country in total offensive snaps last season, offensive coordinator Chad Morris thinks the Tigers can be even faster in 2012.

“I’m going to put more on them early,” Morris said. “I fully expect us to be even faster this year than we were last year. I want to try some things to increase tempo.”

Perfect student

Offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell says converted defensive tackle Tyler Shatley has made fewer mistakes at right guard than any first-year lineman he has coached in three-plus decades in coaching, a welcome appraisal for Clemson, which must replace three starters along the front.

“He understands angles, leverage and concepts,” Caldwell said. “He also brings an attitude and a toughness.”

End of the line?

Clemson defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks said tackle Tavaris Barnes might have to play some defensive end due to the team’s lack of experience at end. Clemson returns only three ends with experience in Corey Crawford, Malliciah Goodman and Victor Beasley.

Defensive ends coach Marion Hobby said at least one freshman, like Shaq Lawson or Martin Aiken, will become part of the defensive ends rotation. Hobby said he expects breakout seasons from Crawford and Goodman. He thinks Goodman can increase his sack total because he missed more sack opportunities than he made.

He said it

Caldwell wants center Dalton Freeman to increase his weight from 280 pounds to 300 pounds. Caldwell praised Freeman’s athleticism and called his mental capabilities “extraordinary” but noted “eating is something he doesn’t enjoy.”