CLEMSON — Any doubt the bar was raised at Clemson after last season?
The first practice of spring was conducted in the new indoor digs. Temperature outside was in the low 40s. No precipitation, nothing intolerable, so it wasn’t imperative they sweat all over the new rug. It was almost like eating burgers and fries in mom’s dining room and spilling a drink.
No accident. The bar is high.
Dabo Swinney smiled, draped an arm around Tajh Boyd’s shoulders and ragged on his franchise quarterback.
“He was a little inaccurate today, not as sharp as I need him to be,” Swinney said, “Not Heisman caliber.”
Boyd laughed but didn’t quibble.
The bar is high at Clemson, even for the reigning ACC player of the year. Boyd and Swinney parried questions about a possible Heisman campaign. Clemson rolled out the life-sized posters of C.J. Spiller in July before his senior season.
“You never know,” Swinney said.
“Time and place,” said Boyd.
“I’ve got to watch him this spring,” Swinney joked, as if there’s any question. “Nobody cares about our last game or our last season.
“Win two games this year, they’ll be running me out of here.”
The bar is high for Sammy Watkins, who appeared fit and eager after that scary injury the first play of the LSU game.
First-team All-America as a freshman, Watkins said he must prove himself again. His sophomore season was delayed by a two-game suspension for a drug arrest and interrupted twice more by an illness he blamed on poor eating habits, yet he caught 57 passes for 708 yards.
“I feel healthy, most definitely thicker and stronger,” Watkins said. “Last year I felt so weak, and I had nicks and bruises because I wasn’t eating right and I wasn’t lifting heavy.”
Watkins confirmed that his family would move from Florida later this week and join him in Clemson, which should provide a stabilizing influence. “I’m looking forward to a home-cooked meal again,” he said.
“I’ve just got to come back and prove myself,” he said, “that I am an every down receiver, that I can play every game.”
Refining that mystical connection with Boyd becomes even more critical. Clemson may be thin at receiver with DeAndre Hopkins riding his career season to the NFL and Martavis Bryant in the academic doghouse.
“We connected two or three times today when he gave me the sign. I knew what to do,” Watkins said. “We changed the plays and the coaches went, ‘Whoa! What happened?’ I made the play and he made the play so they were fine with it.”
Very fine, thank you.
“We’ve got some young guys that will have to plug a few holes here or there,” Swinney said. “I think we’ve got the group coming in here to do that.
“But for the most part, our football team is here. That’s the most exciting team to me.”
Because the bar is high.