News Column

Decoy...or difference maker? Tiger fans set for first Deshaun Watson look

August 28, 2014

By Brandon Rink, Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.



Aug. 28--CLEMSON -- Ready or not, Tiger fans have been guaranteed their first glimpse of five-star freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson between the hedges on Saturday.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is banking on "ready."

"All we can do is evaluate what we see in practice," Swinney said. "He's demonstrated great poise in practice and I don't expect that to change."

"(He) is not just content to go stand on the sideline. He's trying to get better every day. He's trying to get on the field."

As a four-year starter for the Gainesville (Ga.) Red Elephants, Watson passed for over 13,000 yards and rushed for over 4,000, totaling over 200 scores.

Watson committed as a sophomore on signing day 2012, and with few bumps in the road on his pledge, he enrolled early for this past spring semester.

In that spring session, he was one part in a heated three-way competition, where senior Cole Stoudt won the job outright over him and former Tiger Chad Kelly. A broken clavicle in early April sidelined Watson until offseason workouts weeks later.

The QB competition picked back up this August, where the fourth-year senior and first-year freshman have pushed each other.

"(Stoudt)'s had to practice that way every day," Swinney said. "He's just been focused on his job. That's all you can focus on, that's competition. It isn't these guy's first rodeo in having to compete with people. They've competed their whole lives. It's not going to change no matter how far you go up the ladder -- not just on gameday, you have to compete. He's done everything that's been asked of him and done a very good job at it.

"And Deshaun's too. Deshaun has steadily gotten better and better and better. Has a tremendous ceiling. It's exciting to see a young guy getting better every day. It's a good dynamic for us because competition to me brings great play and not the other way around."

Watson's natural ability brings one element, but operating a similar offense in high school, the knowledge of hurry-up spread ins and outs is another factor Georgia must weigh -- however Watson's playing time comes (and how frequently).

"He has a great understanding of our system already," the Tigers coach said on national radio this week. "(He's) big, fast, he can make the all the throws, high football IQ and a great leader. I don't have any doubt if he stays healthy, everybody is going to know who Deshaun Watson is over the next few years.

"And I think he will have a bunch of good moments this year as well."

Maybe more than anything for a Tiger offense that's had the same starter 40 consecutive games under Chad Morris, is the element of surprise. Both Morris and Swinney gone well out of their way to say Watson is not just a "package guy," able to play in any situation.

The underrated upside is found in more questions than answers for the opposing side going in.

"We all know (him) from Gainesville" Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. "He is a very talented guy, who can run and pass and he is such a dynamic player, he will probably get in the game so we have to have a plan for him."

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(c)2014 the Anderson Independent Mail (Anderson, S.C.)

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Source: Anderson Independent-Mail (SC)


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