CLEMSON — Even though DeAndre Hopkins will play in the NFL this fall, he might influence on-field events at Clemson.
How is that possible?
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins has placed himself on the Hopkins Offseason Program this spring.
Like Hopkins last offseason, Watkins has dedicated himself to becoming stronger, eating right, and focusing on the finer points of the receiving craft.
And for extra motivation it doesn’t hurt that Watkins, like Hopkins last season, is eligible for the NFL Draft next spring.
His first step in regaining form is staying on the field. Last season Watkins not only missed two games due to suspension, but missed or was limited in three other games because of injury or illness. Watkins was limited against Florida State and missed the Boston College game due to a stomach illness, and his season ended when he carted off the field in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after suffering a severe high-ankle sprain early in the game. Watkins said he still has some swelling form the injury but is not limited in practice this spring.
After being just the third true freshman to earn first-team All-American honors in 2011 - with a then program record 1,219 yards - Watkins was often a non-factor in 2012, finishing with 708 yards. Watkins watched Hopkins set program records in catches (82), yards (1,405), and touchdowns (18). The junior is determined to regain his elite form this fall.
“I think what I did was I so weak, I had aches and bruises and injuries, because I wasn’t eating right, and I wasn’t lifting heavy,” Watkins said. “But now I’m 210 (pounds). I’m bigger. It’s the same thing DeAndre did. He got healthy and bigger his junior year.”
Hopkins changed his body from his sophomore to his junior year in 2012 when he gained 20 pounds of muscle.
Watkins has gained 10 pounds from his listed playing weight.
“Instead of starving myself and running through all day, going to class and all that stuff, I have a good schedule where I can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, good meals,” Watkins said. “It’s just staying healthy and staying fit.”
Watkins also has a more concentrated focus on his craft.
While he watched Hopkins improve his body, he also saw Hopkins develop into an excellent route runner last season. Watkins said he is working on varying speeds in his route running this spring.
“That’s one thing (Hopkins) was good at. He changed his speed up,” Watkins said. “I’m so fast I always want to go fast. Some routes are not meant to go fast.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Watkins’ down year could prove to enhance his development.
“His focus is outstanding,” Swinney said, “and he’s just really, really grown.”
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