COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — If Sammy Watkins is playing out his final few games with No. 9 Clemson, he's determined to finish with a flourish.
Watkins stellar run began last week with a record-setting 14-catch, 163-yard showing in a 40-27 win at Maryland.
"It's great when the offense is clicking and you can go out there and make a lot of plays," Watkins said this week.
The 6-foot-1 junior bettered the mark of 13 receptions set in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl of former teammate DeAndre Hopkins. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney believes Watkins' speed and technique will lead him to follow Hopkins as an NFL first-rounder next spring.
Watkins displays those skills whenever he lines up and leads the ACC with 813 receiving yards.
The Tigers (7-1, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) close out their league road schedule at Virginia (2-6, 0-4) on Saturday.
Watkins has been making big plays all season. His first touchdown was a 77-yard touchdown against then No. 5 Georgia when he grabbed the ball in traffic and burst through two defenders and outraced them to the end zone.
The receiver was one of the few on offense to shine in a 51-14 drubbing against Florida State. He had eight catches for 68 yards and his 3-yard TD catch in the second quarter cut the Seminoles lead to 17-7 and put the blowout on pause for moment.
Watkins showed his fire on the play, too, fighting through thick coverage to get open just inside the goal line. He came up pumping his fist and encouraging teammates after the catch.
It's those qualities that have made Watkins a top-10 staple in NFL mock drafts. Swinney counsels players who'll be first round picks to leave early and he certainly expects Watkins to make that call.
"He's a top 10 pick to me," Swinney said. "I'd be surprised if he came back, but who knows? I didn't think C.J. Spiller was coming back."
Spiller stunned his family, Swinney and Clemson fans when he returned for his senior season five years ago. Spiller went on to be the 2009 ACC player of the year and was picked ninth overall the next April by the Buffalo Bills.
Watkins said he hasn't thought that far ahead, choosing to concentrate on the rest of Clemson's season.