With the departure of DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins to the NFL, Sammy Watkins had the 2013 season to showcase himself to the nation as a top wide receiver – and he did not disappoint. Watkins caught 85 balls on the season for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. He is a rare talent, one that college football fans have not seen since the likes of Percy Harvin, playing for some guy named Urban Meyer. Every time Watkins touches the ball, he is a threat to take it to the house. On the season, Watkins has catches of 96, 91, 77 and 64 yards. He has elite vertical speed and is great at creating separation. He has vastly improved as a route runner since he got to Clemson, and he will give the Buckeyes' already shaky defensive backs trouble in the Orange Bowl.
Quarterback Tahj Boyd will be looking at Watkins to make plays during the Orange Bowl, especially against the Buckeyes' porous pass defense. It won't help that Bradley Roby will be missing in action, someone who could have been physical with Watkins and possibly thrown him off his game. Will the Buckeyes put Doran Grant on Watkins and hope for the best? Or will they just run a field/boundary corner look with Grant and Armani Reeves with safety help? The secondary has been suspect all season and it will be challenged on Friday, to say the least.
Watkins versus Florida State
Snaps: 58 out of 66 plays before back-ups were put in
Where he lined up: Left WR 21 plays; Right WR 22; Slot right 4; Slot left 4; HB 1; Slot right inside WR 2; Slot left inside WR 2
Other notes: His eight snaps came when Clemson was in their double tight end formation; creates separation; blazing speed; getting better as a route runner; elite hands; lost concentration when the score became lopsided.
1. The first play of the game, (not pictured) Clemson had Watkins in the backfield, then motioned him wide right before completing a pass to the tight end. This is the Tigers' second play of the game and he is lined up behind Boyd in the Clemson 2-back Pistol alignment. Putting a playmaker like Watkins in the backfield creates match up problems for the opposing defense. If the Buckeyes see him line up in the backfield, they'll have to bring a safety up in the box to limit his opportunities in the pass game, as he would be a complete mismatch if they used a linebacker on him. The Tigers can use him as a decoy, run the triple option, motion him out or use him in the passing game out of this formation; the possibilities are endless.
2. Here, Watkins lined up as the left, outside wide receiver and he motioned across the line of scrimmage to the right, inside wide receiver in the trips (3 WR to one side) formation. Out of this formation, they ran the shield concept where Watkins (the inside WR) runs a quick out pattern while the outside slot WR and the outside WR run slants. The Buckeyes and a lot of other teams use this pick play in short yardage and goal line situations. The inside slot is usually the primary receiver on this play, but two players went with him and it freed up the outside slot WR for an easy completion.
3. Even though the game ended up in a blowout, the Tigers still ran 70+ total plays and had a good tempo on offense. Here, they got to the line quickly and Watkins lined up in the left slot position without a defender on him. He raised his hand at Boyd to signal that the Seminole defense had a lapse in alignment and they ran a quick slant to Watkins for the first down. He is a type of player that needs to be accounted for pre-snap every single play. Being out of position, if the safety missed the tackle he would have been gone. Especially with Roby out, the defense needs to be alert every play as Watkins can turn a quick slant into six points.
4. On the goal line, Clemson came out in a "Posse" personnel grouping (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) with Watkins lined up as the left outside wide receiver. With the Seminoles in man coverage but not press-man coverage, Watkins ran a spot route. He beat the defender easily with a great head fake and crisp route that got him good separation.
Watkins showed his great hands and body control on this play, snatching a ball that was thrown behind him from Boyd for a touchdown.
5. On this play, Clemson put Watkins in the flex position in a two point stance. They used play-action and ran a slip screen to Watkins. If the Buckeyes defensive line starts to get pressure on Boyd, the Tigers can counter that with screens and quick passes to Watkins.
It was a great play call as Watkins was wide open on the play. It was his only drop of the day and it may have been linked to his concentration level based on the scoreboard. I would expect the Tigers to run a variation of this play against the Buckeyes.