Heisman Top 25: No. 15 Sammy Watkins

A great season from Clemson and WR Sammy Watkins could propel the junior to a run at the Heisman Trophy. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Only 76 players in the history of college football have earned the designation of Heisman Trophy winners. First awarded in 1935, the Heisman Trophy is considered the sport’s pinnacle of individual achievement.

SaturdayBlitz.com is tracking the race to the 78th Heisman Trophy throughout the 2013 college football season via the Heisman Top 25. Every week throughout the season, we are tracking the progress of the contenders, both their on-field impact and media presence.

Suspension and injuries hampered Clemson WR Sammy Watkins in 2012. Great play from fellow WR DeAndre Hopkins didn’t help matters, especially after QB Tajh Boyd developed a comfort level with the 2012 first-round NFL draft pick. Still, Watkins’ game-changing ability can’t be denied. Even in his down year, the rising junior hauled in 57 passes for 708 in effectively eight games.

Add to that the fact that Watkins will return to his previous role of primary receiver and it’s easy to see why he belongs on this list – especially in a Chad Morris system.

Watkins truthfully put himself on Heisman Trophy lists based on the strength of a sensational freshman season in 2011. He burst onto the scene with 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 TDs and returned a kickoff for a TD as well. Scoring 6 TDs in his first four games didn’t hurt, either – especially considering his two biggest performances of the season came on nationally televised games against defending champ Auburn and conference bully Florida State. He caught 10 passes for 155 yards and 2 TDs against the Tigers and made seven grabs for 141 yards and two more scores against FSU.

Along with USC WR Marqise Lee, Watkins is the game’s best game-breaking receiver threat. The difference is Watkins has a proven commodity at quarterback – and an easier road to hoe in the ACC. Oh, and Morris makes a huge difference as well. The Clemson offensive coordinator has shown he will put the ball in the hands of his playmakers in any number of ways.

How Sammy Watkins Wins The Heisman

Somehow, Watkins must distinguish himself from the successes of QB Tahj Boyd. As much as that sounds like a Terrell Owens sentiment, it’s true in the Heisman Trophy discussion. If Boyd posts huge numbers and Watkins, along with Boyd, does the same, voters will shift their weight behind the player who touches the ball on every snap. Watkins can have chances in return situations and on trick plays that make him a rusher – though he might want to avoid running up the gut against teams like LSU.

Clemson’s ability to stay relevant on a national stage will also factor in Watkins’ ability to contend for the Heisman. Fortunately for Watkins, the Tigers have three marquee games that will generate significant national attention. The first of those games, a home contest against Georgia, could be the type of breakout party Watkins needs for his candidacy. There’s also a pivotal game against Florida State in the middle of the season and a perfect chance to end the season on a high note in front of a national audience when the Tigers close the regular season at South Carolina.

History is not on Watkins’ side. A receiver hasn’t won the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991 and the ACC has had just two winners in league history – both from Florida State. The ACC has never produced a Heisman winner that lost more than one regular-season game, nor has it ever produced a Heisman winner from a team that failed to win the league.

Statistical Overview

• 57 receptions, 708 yards, 3 TDs in 2012

• 82 receptions, 1,219 yards, 12 TDs in 2012

• 1 career return TD

Compared To Past Heisman Winners

Desmond Howard, 1991: Arguably, Howard won the Heisman Trophy in 1991 more as a result of an iconic punt return than because of his receiving numbers. Then again, his 19 TD receptions, including a memorable one to clinch an early season win over Notre Dame, didn’t hurt. It’s hard to imagine, but Howard actually didn’t eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark. He finished with 985 yards. The bigger number focused on trips to the end-zone. Howard finished the season with 23 TDs – 19 through the air, two rushing and two on returns.

Topics: ACC, Clemson Tigers

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