CLEMSON — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says All-American receiver Sammy Watkins is working hard to redeem himself after last spring’s drug arrest.
Watkins was pulled over during a traffic stop and found to have a bag of marijuana and two pills he didn’t have a prescription for. He was charged with two counts of possession, both misdemeanor charges.
Watkins was eligible for a pretrial intervention program as a first time offender.
Swinney said this week Watkins understood his mistake and is doing the things he must to regain the trust of his teammates and coaches after his mistake.
Swinney said Watkins will miss game time as part of his punishment for the arrest.
“Anything’s a possibility as what kind of punishment we decide,” Swinney said. “I’m not trying to pin myself into a corner or anything like that.”
Swinney said he’s got a good idea of minimum and maximum punishments Watkins could face.
“He’s going to sit, it’s just a matter of how much and when and that kind of stuff,” he said.
Watkins set Clemson records with 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He was also a dynamic kick returner, leading the team with a 25-yard average and bringing one back for a touchdown in the Tigers comeback win over Maryland last season.
Clemson opens the season at the Georgia Dome against Auburn on Sept. 1, the third straight year it’s played the 2010 national champions. Obviously, losing Watkins for the first game would be significant blow to Clemson’s offense.
After Auburn, Clemson plays at home against Ball State and Furman - two games is will be heavily favored to win no matter who’s playing wide receiver.
Swinney said he doesn’t want the questions about Watkins to drag into fall camp, which opens Aug. 3.
“I just want him to finish the things and continue to do things right, like he’s been doing,” the coach said. “And then we’ll go from there.”
Watkins has not talked publicly since the arrest and is not among the players Clemson is bringing to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s football gathering this weekend.
Watkins’ attorney, Bob Ariail, said South Carolina prevents him from discussing what his client is doing as punishment. Successful completion of the intervention program would wipe the charges off Watkins’ record.
“Like to thank everyone that is acknowledging me for the Heismen but I’m really not focused on that it’s all about Clemson my team,” Watkins said on his Twitter feed this week.
Receivers coach Jeff Scott said he was surprised by Watkins’ arrest. Scott added that the receiver was embarrassed by his run-in with the police.
“But he’s responded the right way and obviously, he feels like his way of answering that is behavior and decisions off the field,” Scott said. “Also, he wants to get back on the grass and do what he does best.”
Scott said there’s plenty of ways the 19-year-old can improve. Defenses will be waiting for Watkins off the line and he’ll need to be even crisper with technique than he was last season, Scott said.
Watkins has apologized to teammates and coaches, another strong sign, Scott said, that the receiver understands his error and is ready to lead the ACC champions.
“Any great teams I’ve been around, some of their great players are their best leaders,” Scott said. “It’s something we’re really challenging him on and he’s continued to grow in that roll.”