Watkins’ stellar run began last week with a record-setting 14-catch, 163-yard showing in a 40-27 win at Maryland.
“It’s great when the offense is clicking and you can go out there and make a lot of plays,” Watkins said this week.
The 6-foot-1 junior bettered the mark of 13 receptions set in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl by former teammate DeAndre Hopkins. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney believes Watkins’ speed and technique will lead him to follow Hopkins as an NFL first-rounder.
Watkins leads the ACC with 813 receiving yards.
The Tigers (7-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) close out their league road schedule at Virginia (2-6, 0-4) on Saturday.
Watkins has been making big plays all season.
His first touchdown was a 77-yard score against Georgia when he grabbed the ball in traffic and burst through two defenders before outracing them to the end zone.
The receiver was one of the few on offense to shine in a 51-14 drubbing against Florida State. He had eight catches for 68 yards and his 3-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter cut the Seminoles’ lead to 17-7 and put the blowout on pause for a moment.
It’s those qualities that have made Watkins a top-10 staple in NFL mock drafts. Swinney counsels players who’ll be first round picks to leave early and he certainly expects Watkins to make that call.
“He’s a top 10 pick to me,” Swinney said. “I’d be surprised if he came back, but who knows? I didn’t think C.J. Spiller was coming back.”
Spiller stunned his family, Swinney and Clemson fans when he returned for his senior season five years ago. Watkins said he hasn’t thought that far ahead, choosing to concentrate on the rest of Clemson’s season.
“All I can do is keep playing hard and keep giving the scouts what they’re looking for and everything will work out on my end,” he said.
When Hopkins left for the pros, Watkins understood he’d have to work harder to regain his edge, and Boyd’s trust.
He worked in the weight room and looks like a more chiseled 205 pounds. He and Boyd also worked together during the offseason to rebuild a connection that was more dormant than dead.
Watkins is closing in on a pair of school marks as well: He needs 36 receptions to break Aaron Kelley’s Clemson record of 232 catches, and 281 yards receiving to surpass his pal Hopkins, who leads that career category with 3,020.
“Tajh has been doing a great job communicating with me and getting me the ball,” Watkins said. “The coaches see that I’m healthy, I can play and they’re targeting me more. And I can’t wait to play Virginia.”