Sammy Watkins is back, and he's here to stay.
After a record-setting 2011 campaign that saw him become the first player since Adrian Peterson to be named a first-team All-American as a true freshman, Watkins had Heisman hopes for 2012.
But his dream quickly turned into a nightmare. Watkins missed three of Clemson's first seven games due to suspension and illness, racking up 24 catches for just 202 yards.
On Thursday against Wake Forest, he decided to double that number. Literally.
From CBS' Eye on College Football Twitter account:
Tajh Boyd has set a Clemson single-game record with 428 yds passing.Sammy Watkins also set a school record with 202 rec yards.— Eye on College FBall (@EyeOnCFB) October 26, 2012
Not only that, but Watkins tallied 177 of those yards in the first half and scored his first receiving touchdown on a very 2011-esque play:
You know it's impressive when there are four guys trying to tackle him and he still would have barely been down in two-hand touch.
Now that Watkins is fully healthy and once again entrenched in this offense, it's safe to say that in Clemson's final four regular-season games, we can expect to see what we saw on Thursday night. We can see what we've been waiting for all year.
Not only does Watkins' do-everything skill-set (he now has a receiving, rushing and passing touchdown on the year) make him arguably one of the most unique offensive weapons in the nation, but Thursday night finally answered the question Clemson fans have constantly been wondering:
Can Watkins and junior DeAndre Hopkins coexist?
During the three games that Watkins missed this season, Hopkins went for 119, 105 and 197 yards—three of his four most productive games. His 173-yard effort came when Watkins was quieted by Georgia Tech.
But Thursday, things were different. Oh, so different.
Watkins had his huge night, but Hopkins chipped in six catches, 64 yards and a touchdown of his own. It was by far the most production the two have combined for all year.
This is, among other things, a terrific sign that Watkins can end his season on a much-needed high note after the inconsistency of the first seven weeks.
With Watkins and Hopkins finally both on top of their games at the same time, they will play off each other. The mere presence of each will help the other succeed at All-Conference—if not All-American—levels.
And that's a scary thought for Duke, Maryland, N.C. State and South Carolina.