A healthy Charone Peake would be preferable. A productive Charone Peake could be significant to a Clemson offense needing to define itself.
Senior Adam Humphries, sophomores Mike Williams and Germone Hopper and a group of talented freshmen are capable of producing big numbers. Even with a new quarterback, Peake’s skill set could push them to numbers comparable to last season.
“I don’t have any doubt,” Dabo Swinney has said, “that we’re going to need Charone Peake to have the kind of year we all want to have.”
Peake is as critical to the Clemson offense as Sammy Watkins before him. During his senior season at Dorman High in Spartanburg, Peake was a consensus top 100 prospect, rated No. 2 receiver in the nation by ESPN.
Entering Clemson with Watkins and Martavis Bryant, his confidence was wounded. Peake was brought along slowly and finished his freshman season with four receptions.
Watkins’ suspension created an opportunity in 2012, and though Peake started against Auburn and Ball State, he was overshadowed by Deandre Hopkins and tight end Brandon Ford. Peake did not earn another start that season.
Peake entered 2013 confident in his role, but after a team-high eight receptions and his third career touchdown through two games, Peake tore a knee ligament during a Tuesday non-contact drill, ending his season.
Granted a medical redshirt, Peake began the journey back. Though he missed spring drills, Peake remained on schedule until he sustained a torn meniscus shortly before preseason practice. As disheartening as it might have been Peake, was assured it would be only a matter of weeks before he could join his teammates on the practice field.
Peake plays larger than 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, leaping above defenses to grab passes, then coming down and – in one quick move – heading upfield. When scouts evaluated him, that’s what they saw.
“This is an area where Peake makes it look so easy. High ball, low ball, backside ball – it does not matter,” wrote Tom Luginbill for ESPN.com during Peake’s senior year.
“Peake just adjusts and makes it happen. He can leap, stop momentum and come back or elevate to the ball and he makes one-handed grabs look routine.”
Luginbill rated Peake’s hands comparable to Watkins’ and compared him to A.J. Green.
“Peake plucks and tucks with ease. He has quick hands and can contort his frame to haul in passes thrown outside his natural catching radius,” Luginbill wrote. “His focus and intense ability to make plays in a crowd, as well as one-handed, acrobatic grabs, is as good as we have seen.”
Quarterback Cole Stoudt said it was sweet to see Peake snaring anything within reach during practice this week. Peake said it was all because the knee was sound.
“With all knee injuries, you have to talk to yourself and prepare yourself everyday,” he said.
“I feel good. It will come. I feel like I’ve got my same speed. I’m just getting the little things taken care of.”
Seeing the progress of the younger players afforded him the luxury of not pushing to practice. “We know what we have in Charone Peake,” Swinney said. Rather than two weeks after the meniscus surgery Peake took a third and returned Monday.
“I made sure they were preparing the right way. I see great things in every single person who came in. They all look good,” he said.
“I didn’t want to hop out there not feeling 100 percent and feeling good.”
Peake also seems to share in the wonder about how he’ll handle that first bit of contact at Georgia.
“I haven’t been hit since the S.C. State game last year,” he said. “Being around the guys this summer, catching balls and having my teammates around me has made me more comfortable.”
Having a comfortable Charone Peake could be a blessing in disguise.