Clemson QB Deshaun Watson hopes to keep young trend going
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson is only a sophomore, but don’t let that fool you. He is as poised as any veteran signal-caller in the nation. And with history on his side, the underclassman will attempt to take his place alongside those youngsters who have recently won national championships.
Just last season Ohio State redshirt sophomore QB Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to the first College Football Playoff national championship. The year before that, a redshirt freshman by the name of Jameis Winston led the Florida State Seminoles to the final BCS National Championship.
The 2011 and 2012 national championships were won by Alabama with sophomore, and then junior, QB A.J. McCarron leading the way in both victories.
Junior QB Cam Newton led Auburn to the 2010 national title. In fact, in this decade, you have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a senior – Alabama’s QB Greg McElroy – leading the Tide to the national championship.
The supremely confident Watson hopes to continue the more recent trend when he guides the No. 1 unbeaten Tigers (14-0) against No. 2 Alabama (13-1) on Monday in Glendale, Ariz.
Watson has thrown for 3,704 yards and 31 touchdowns, completing 303 of 444 passes (68.2 percent) with just 12 interceptions. He is effective in the pocket and out of the pocket, something that has given Alabama defenses problems recently.
But Watson said he feels he can do damage in either situation.
“I feel like I’m dangerous either way,” Watson said. “I would say I didn’t throw 3,500 yards for no reason, and they weren’t always outside the pocket. Either way I feel like I’m pretty dangerous, and that’s just the confidence I have in myself and my teammates.”
It isn’t bragging if you can back it up. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is convinced of Watson’s abilities.
“He’s the best player in the country. It’s just that simple,” Swinney said. “You know, people can have their own opinions or whatever, but there ain’t a better one than No. 4. This guy is special in every regard.”
Poise is what Swinney said he believes sets Watson apart.
“I think that is a rare quality, especially in a young player,” he said. “It’s one thing to have great skills, size, strength, ability to run, understanding of what you’re doing, be able to make all the throws. Those are very measurable things. But his poise is uncommon, and then I think the other thing with him is how he prepares.
“It’s very uncommon to see a young guy that prepares so relentlessly like he does, I mean, he is relentless in how he prepares each and every week, and I said this last year when he was a true freshman, it was like coaching a fifth-year senior. That was the conversations that we would have. His aptitude for the game, it’s just off the charts.”
Watson faces his biggest test to date against Alabama, which most would agree has the best defense in the country. But he said he would prepare the same as every other game.
“Nothing really changes,” Watson said. “It’s still a ballgame. It’s just a little more hype around it, bigger media days, and different activities going around. Just more distractions, but it’s still 100 yards, still got to execute and perform at a high level.”
But when it comes right down to it, Watson said he’s just thankful for the opportunity.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s been amazing what we did this season. It’s what we’ve been waiting for for 30 years, and now we have the opportunity, and I’m just thankful. I’m thankful for all the guys, all the coaches, all the fans, the support staff.”