LSU Football: Why Sammy Watkins Is No Match for Tigers' Secondary

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04:  Sammy Watkins #2 of the Clemson Tigers runs a pattern off the line against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Wasn't Sammy Watkins supposed to be the most celebrated wide receiver in the country heading into this year's 2012 college football season?

Wasn't he supposed to build on that outstanding freshman season he had last year with the Clemson Tigers, and be a sure-bet first-team All-American this year?

Don't get me wrong, 57 catches for 708 yards is pretty solid for a sophomore wide receiver, but it was Watkins' partner in crime, fellow wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who stole the show this season.

Hopkins hauled in a team-best 69 catches for 1,214 yards and an eye-popping 16 touchdowns.

Now keep in mind that Watkins was suspended for the first two games of the season this year and did not play against Boston College in Week 5, but is this guy going to be a matchup problem for the dominant LSU secondary in this year's Chick-Fil-A Bowl?

Not so fast, as the great Lee Corso would say.

Despite losing three players from their secondary to the NFL Draft (Claiborne, Brooks, Taylor), and a fourth player who was dismissed from the team for drug use (Mathieu), the Tigers' secondary has been exceptional this season.

Lacking experience heading into the season, the cornerback trio of Tharold Simon, Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins have thrived in starting roles this year. The trio has combined to pick off eight passes and have held opposing teams' top receivers in check throughout the year.

The safety unit, led by All-American Eric Reid and Craig Loston, has been equally as impressive.

So why should one believe that this unit can shut down Watkins?

Well, just take a look at how other top-notch wide receivers have fared this season when going up against this suffocating LSU secondary.

Texas A&M featured a two-headed monster at wide receiver as well, very similar to Clemson's duo of Watkins and Hopkins.

Senior Ryan Swope and freshman Mike Evans each caught 60-plus passes and each posted 800-or-more receiving yards in the high-flying Texas A&M offense. But when that duo went up against this LSU secondary, both receivers were held to under 81 yards, and neither of them found the end zone.

Washington has a similar duo in Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams, both totaling 60-plus catches for 780-or-more yards and each hauling in six TD passes.

However, against LSU, this talented duo was no match for the Tigers' dominant secondary.

The duo combined for just nine catches for 70 yards and no touchdowns against the Tigers defensive backfield.

The most talented wide receiver the Tigers have probably faced up to this point this season was Arkansas' Cobi Hamilton, who put up better numbers than Watkins—or just about any other wide receiver in the nation.

But despite Hamilton's gaudy stat line of 90 catches for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns, the Tigers held him to under 100 yards and, most importantly, kept him out of the end zone.

Of course, Watkins can break out at any moment, regardless of how good his stats have been this season. But the point here is that this LSU secondary has yet to be outmatched this season, and certainly isn't going to fear Watkins.

Also keep in mind that this LSU pass rush will be the best that this Clemson team has seen all season. That added pressure will help this secondary as Tajh Boyd will have less time to sit back in the pocket and wait for Watkins to get open in coverage.

It also helps to know that LSU has the best safety in the country in Eric Reid, sitting back there and reading Watkins' every move.

Don't be surprised to see some points put up on that scoreboard in this matchup, but in the end, look for Tharold Simon and Co. to get the best of Sammy Watkins and this Clemson offense.