CLEMSON — Even though departing star DeAndre Hopkins possesses about every single-season receiving record imaginable at Clemson and even though he could be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft later this month, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd still has a lofty opinion of the receiving corps he will target this fall.
“I feel like I have the best receiving corps in the country,” Boyd said.
Boyd, along with every NFL scout, knows what a healthy Sammy Watkins is capable of on a football field. Watkins became just the third true freshman in college football history to become a first-team All-American in 2011, joining Adrian Peterson and Herschel Walker.
Fellow junior Charone Peake has been timed faster than Watkins in the 40-yard dash. The Clemson staff claims Peake can run a sub-4.3 second 40-yard dash. Coach Dabo Swinney has hinted Peake will have the first crack at becoming Clemson’s No. 2 receiver.
Yet another talented junior, Martavis Bryant, is the ultimate deep threat: a lithe 6-foot-4 leaper blessed with a rare top gear. The junior is averaging 27.6 yards per catch for his career. If he is focused, which the staff suggests he is following an academic suspension that cost him a trip to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, he could be in line for a breakout.
Sophomore wideout Adam Humphries has proven to be a productive slot receiver, and redshirt freshman Germone Hopper has wowed observers on the practice field.
In sum, Clemson returns receivers that are bigger, stronger and faster than Hopkins. But while Boyd and the staff has often marveled at the raw physical tools present in the Clemson receiving corps, Boyd added a key caveat: “It’s not enough if you are not feeling the guys.”
For Clemson’s offense to remain elite in 2013 it will requires further refinement from receivers, who must also develop chemistry with Boyd. As Hopkins demonstrated last season, playing receiver is about more than 40 times; the craft is also dependent upon route-running, competitiveness, chemistry with a quarterback and developing sure hands.
Clemson’s receiving corps requires improved skills to combine with the impressive tools, a process Boyd says is ongoing this spring and will carry over in the summer.
“It’s going to be a big offseason for me and the guys in the receiving corps,” Boyd said. “I need it to understand how they are running their routes. You have to have a special bond. It will be the same way this summer.”
The tools are there for Clemson to threaten some of last season’s record numbers in the air game. But offensive coordinator Chad Morris says there is much work to be done and it begins with the most basic of receiving tasks: catching the football.
“We have too many dropped balls,” Morris said. “That’s what is standing out more than anything right now. That’s what’s very frustrating to me and that’s what we are addressing. We are staying on top of these guys. They are doing some good things. I think we are playing more physical than we’ve played. That’s been a big emphasis and we will continue to be a big emphasis. ”
Notes: Morris said Ryan Norton is “the guy” at center, the projected starter who will replace four-year starter Dalton Freeman. Morris also like redshirt freshman center Jay Guillermo, who projects as a multi-year starter at the position. “This is his first spring and he’s just kind of figuring it all out,” Morris said. … Morris wants to see more out of backup running back D.J. Howard, who will have a bigger role this season with Andre Ellington departing. “We have to get more out of D.J.,” Morris said. “He didn’t have the year he wanted. He didn’t have the year he had in the first year in the sytsem. A lot of it had to do with his focus.”