Sammy Watkins Suspension: Did Dabo Swinney Seal Tigers' Fate with Punishment?
So many times in sports, we often criticize coaches for taking the easy way out and not punishing their players enough when they break the law. More times than not, a college star usually misses a quarter of action and is right back on the field 15 minutes later.
That is not the case if you play for the Clemson Tigers, and unfortunately, star receiver Sammy Watkins learned that the hard way.
Watkins was arrested back in May for possession of marijuana and was charged with possession of a controlled substance. The news was a big deal because of Watkins' star status, but we see arrests like this all the time and we expect to see that player on the field the very next week.
Well, when it comes to Watkins, you will have to wait until Week 3 to see him in a Clemson uniform, as he was recently suspended for the first two games of the season by head coach Dabo Swinney.
Now two games out of a 12-game season may not sound like much, but when we begin to break things down, this will play a much bigger role on this Tigers team than you may think.
Swinney stated on Friday evening (via Ben Kercheval of CollegeFootballTalk.com):
I told Sammy this past May that there would be a high-end (number of games) and a low-end, and it would be up to him as to the length of his suspension...He has done everything we have asked and then some, so the two-game suspension is the low-end.
What is interesting about those comments is the fact that Watkins did everything asked of him and more, but yet still received a full two-game suspension. If that was the best-case scenario, what in the world was the worst? Now I am in no way giving a pass for walking around with illegal drugs, but this is a clear message that Swinney is running a strict program.
So what type of impact will this have?
Well first, you can cancel any chances of Watkins competing for the Heisman Trophy.
Watkins, who was a freshman last season, caught 82 passes for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also a key contributor on special teams, quickly making a name for himself as one of the more explosive players in the country. There is no question he was on a few Heisman ballots entering this year, but missing two games makes that goal nearly impossible to reach now.
As for the games that Watkins will miss, he won't participate in the season opener against Auburn, and will miss the home opener against Ball State. The Tigers should have no problem knocking off the Cardinals without the star wide receiver, but now the game against Auburn gets a little interesting.
Auburn is a team that returns 16 starters from a year ago, including nine on defense. And despite losing to Clemson last season, they played the Tigers close, losing by a score of 38-24. Watkins ended up having his best game of the season in that contest, catching 10 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson is still a three point-favorite in that game according to 5dimes.com, but Auburn has a much better chance to pull off a minor upset without a key playmaker in the lineup.
Who will win Week 1 with Watkins suspended?
The suspension does not just end there though. Having to watch from the sidelines for two weeks, it gives Watkins only one week of game action before the Tigers have to travel to Tallahassee to take on the Florida State Seminoles. That is a key ACC matchup that will play a huge factor on the Atlantic Division.
Will the former 5-star recruit be able to shake out the cobwebs in time to go up against a top-10 caliber defense?
There is a good chance the Tigers could start the season off 2-2, and that does not include tough games later in the year against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and South Carolina.
Despite the suspension, Clemson remains a talented team, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Tajh Boyd threw for over 3,000 yards last season, Andre Ellington topped 1,000 yards at the running back position, and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is one of the more unappreciated receivers in college football.
Still, this suspension could put a huge dent in the Tigers' season before it has even begun.
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