Unlike some teams, Clemson opens up the season with a tough matchup against Auburn in the Georgia Dome. Unfortunately, they will have to do it without dynamic wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was suspended for the first two games of the season because of his May misdemeanor arrest for marijuana possession. Watkins will also miss Clemson’s home opener against Ball State.
Watkins had an outstanding freshmen season for Clemson, with 82 catches for 1219 yards and 12 touchdowns. Watkins also added 229 yards rushing on only 31 carries–approximately 7 yards an attempt. In addition, he returned 26 kickoffs for 683 yards. On the season, Watkins led all ACC players in all-purposes yards with 2,228. Only West Virginia’s Tavon Austin (2,574) and New Mexico State’s Taveon Rogers (2,356) had more all-purpose yards nationally.
Although his team will miss Watkins, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney noted that Watkins exemplary post-incident conduct was a mitigating factor and that Watkins has learned from his mistake:
“I told Sammy this past May that there would be a high end (number of games) and a low end, and it would be up to him as to the length of his suspension,” Swinney said in a statement. “He has done everything we have asked and then some, so the two-game suspension is the low end. He just finished his responsibilities last week and I met with Bob Arial (Watkins’s lawyer) today to make sure everything had been completed properly.”
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““The game of football, or a game of football will never be more important to me than teaching young people important life lessons,” Swinney said. “I have learned that many times something that seems to be the worst thing that can happen to you can become the best thing. I know Sammy will learn from this and use this to make a difference in other people’s lives. I look forward to having No.2 back on the field soon.”
Clemson has enough talent to still start out the season 2-0. But that first game against Auburn just got that much tougher.
With all the discussion of “penalties” lately, one wonders if the best penalty for this situation wouldn’t have been to suspend Watkins for the Ball State and Furman games (game 3). First, Watkins would be able to play in the Auburn game–the game where he is needed most. That allows his teammates and fans to not share in Watkins’ punishment. Second, missing the Ball State and Furman games would prevent Watkins from running up his stats in two games that would likely be high-scoring affairs (at least for Clemson). This punishes the individual. The Confidential thinks that forcing players to sit out stat-padding games is the best way to narrowly tailor the punishment to the player.