The panic attack that swept through Clemson Memorial Stadium when wide receiver Mike Williams smacked his neck against a goal post while catching a touchdown was understandable.
Seems it was also unnecessary as far as gauging the 12th-ranked Tigers’ chances to compete for an ACC title.
Williams is a wonderful talent, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards last season. And it was terrifying that it took him so long to be lifted up off the ground during the Tigers’ victory over Wofford. He suffered a neck fracture and is done for the season, but there’s every reason to believe he will play again.
There’s also every reason to think Clemson will continue as a superior passing attack based on Saturday’s 41-10 blowout of Appalachian State.
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We forget that Clemson has essentially been Wide Receiver U of late. Former Tigers Sammy Watkins (Buffalo) and DeAndre Hopkins (Houston) are two of the most exciting young receivers in the NFL. Receivers want to play at Clemson, where the offense is up-tempo and diverse.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney is an excellent recruiter and wide receiver is where this coaching staff excels. Latest of many examples: Charone Peake.
Peake, a graduate student, has had an unremarkable college career, but that wasn’t necessarily his fault. He’s had injuries and has played behind a handful of guys who are NFL locks. Then Williams got hurt and Peake was thrust into the No. 1 receiver role: more targets, more diverse routes, more responsibility.
It was a situation that could have overwhelmed him. Instead he thrived. Peake had four catches, all in the first half, for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
The second of those touchdowns was a 59-yard second-quarter bomb from quarterback Deshaun Watson. After the game, Watson was asked if that’s the best throw of his career.
No, Watson said, he still prefers his first college touchdown pass, a 30-yard dart against Georgia last season. Who caught that pass between two defenders?
“It was not a surprise to us coaches. We saw it in the spring and in fall camp. It was really just a matter of Charone getting those opportunities,” said Jeff Scott, Clemson’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. “It seems like Deshaun threw that ball about 73 yards in the air and those balls can be really hard to catch.”
Peake played all three wide receiver spots, but clearly this offense now features him the most since he arrived at college.
He’s lucky to have so precocious a quarterback as Watson, who completed 19 of 26 passes Saturday for 248 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. What does Scott need from Watson and Peake now?
“It’s different over there on the boundary. He’s going to get different looks and more press coverage,” Scott said of Peake. “So he and Deshaun really need to get on the same page: The distance on when to break off routes, when to convert routes, when to come back. This is the first week they really spent all week together.”
You wouldn’t guess that from how effectively they collaborated. Peake seemed less surprised by how he responded than by how many questions he got about his performance.
“I want to be a guy they can trust,” Peake said. “A guy who can be counted on.”
Pretty sound first step in that direction.