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“I wanted to be like him,” Watkins said. “Coach always talked about him, and I followed him. But in high school I even got better than him. Actually I got way better than him at my position.”

Jenkins doesn’t dispute it: “I knew he was going to be special.”

Watkins decided in 10th grade he wanted to attend Clemson. Once he arrived, he made an impact the first time a pass came his way, taking it 33 yards for a touchdown.

He was a starter by the third game against defending national champion Auburn. He had 10 catches for 155 yards, rushed for 44 yards and scored twice to help Clemson pull off an upset.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m a big part of the team,’ ” Watkins said. “I need to produce every game, instead of just being a typical freshman. I’m actually one of those freshmen that’s on the stage now.”

The Tigers keep him busy. He has 136 touches this season.

“They do really a great job of getting him the football in a bunch of different ways,” West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “Obviously, they’re going to throw him the ball, but he’ll get it as a running back, and they’re going to screen him. They’ll throw the ball down the field, and he goes up and gets it. But his speed and athleticism are what probably separates him.”

The Mountaineers have given up more than 30 points five times this season. But while they’ve struggled to stop the run, they ranked 15th in the nation in pass efficiency defense, and their unusual 3-3 stack scheme could confuse Clemson.

Along with Smith and Jenkins, the secondary includes All-Big East cornerback Keith Tandy, who has 12 career interceptions. All will be intent on containing Watkins.

“If we push him around a little bit, I think he’ll slow down,” Smith said.