Before the Clemson’s Sammy Watkins made a splash last year as a the nation’s best freshman wide receiver, the Tigers had another talented wide receiver on their roster, DeAndre Hopkins. In 2010 Hopkins as freshman led the Tigers with 52 receptions for 637 and made several of his own freshman All-American lists that year.
Watkins is considered the speedy game breaker and Hopkins more of the possession receiver. Watkins was such a huge sensation last season that at times he may have overshadowed Hopkins. That would unwise to forget Hopkins. He’s a talented player that along with Watkins may form be the best wide receiver tandem in the country. Let’s dig into the numbers and see how they stack up with some other top returning tandems.
Last season Hopkins had 72 receptions for 978 and 5 touchdowns. Sammy Watkins finished 2011 with 82 receptions for 1219 and 12 touchdowns. Combined that’s a whopping 154 receptions, 2197 yards, and 17 touchdowns. That was done with Tajh Boyd starting in his first year as quarterback while learning Chad Morris’s brand new quick strike offense. Maybe you figured this offense just threw it 40 times a game in a pass happy offense, ala Case Keenum at Houston. Kennum had 9 games with 40 or more passing attempts and 2 over 60, while Boyd had 5 games with more than 40 attempt and none over 50. The Tigers like to throw, but that is not exclusively their offense.
This was still an offense that ran for over 150 yards a game. I took a look at NCAA.org for last season’s recieving stats, and I found one other returning pair of receivers that have stats that were better than Hopkins and Watkins. They were Robert Woods and Marqise Lee of Southern California.
Woods and Lee together had a ridiculous 184 catches for 2435 yards and 26 TDs. Watkins did miss one complete game, but unless he had a 30 reception games for 250 yards and 9 TDs, its a safe bet that Woods and Lee would have had better stats. You may be able to argue that Woods and Lee played in a conference whose highest rated defense was California at number 25. The ACC had 2 top 10 defenses in Florida State and Virginia that Clemson went 3-0 against. Does this give the edge to Watkins and Hopkins? I’m not sure and actually I would have to say no. Woods and Lee are just two very talented players.
Robert Woods was the Scout.com number 1 WR coming out of HS in 2010. Watkins was number 5 in 2011. Lane Kiffen said recently Lee could be the best receiver to ever play at tradition rich USC. The Clemson coaches have praised DeAndre Hopkins as one of the Tigers top players in the spring. This is after devoting himself fulltime to football. Yes Hopkins was this good while spending part of his time as a reserve on the Clemson basketball team. Sammy Watkins was called by some the nation’s most exciting receiver in his first full season of college football.
Back to the original question, I probably have to give the edge to the USC receivers at the moment, because as a tandem I think there’s a bit more explosiveness between the two vs Watkins and Hopkins.. Watkins is clearly among top the top 2-3 playmakers in the nation. If Hopkins who is already a very good receiver in his own right has the season Clemson is expecting, then we might call this Tiger duo the country’s best and maybe some already do. It’s the combo from USC or the guys from Clemson no one enters 2012 in the conversation… You’ve got to prove it on the field and these 4 already have.