All-Americans Sammy Watkins and Dwayne Allen are the latest standout receivers West Virginia will face in a bowl game when the 23rd-ranked Mountaineers meet No. 14 Clemson on Jan. 4 in the Orange Bowl.
Watkins’ speed and field awareness has enabled him to amass 1,153 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman while proving to be one of the nation’s most dangerous kickoff returners.
“He is a difference-maker,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “There is no question.”
The Mountaineers have about a half-dozen practices left to figure out a scheme that might slow down Watkins and his teammates. And they’ll have to do it without two-year starter Terence Garvin at safety.
Garvin underwent knee surgery after the final regular-season game and the junior will require six months of rehabilitation. Redshirt freshman Wes Tonkery and freshman Shaq Petteway will battle for Garvin’s spot in the bowl.
Clemson has surpassed 35 points eight times this season, and Watkins is confident it can happen again.
“If we play on all cylinders and everyone is doing their job, I think we can put up a lot of points on these guys,” he said.
Despite being slowed by a sore shoulder near the end of the regular season, Watkins was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-American as an all-purpose player by The Associated Press.
Few know him better than West Virginia cornerback Brodrick Jenkins. They were high school teammates in Fort Myers, Fla.
“He knows what to do when he has the ball in his hand,” Jenkins said.
“He knows how to get open and be able to help exploit teams. When he has to deal with pressure, he’s good with it.”
Clemson (10-3) also has quarterback Tajh Boyd and his other targets, including Allen, the John Mackey Award winner who had 48 catches for 577 yards and eight scores, all school records for a tight end. There’s also 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington and 871-yard receiver DeAndre Hopkins to worry about.