Deshaun Watson’s impact on Clemson’s season is obvious. He’s led the Tigers to a second consecutive College Football Playoff berth.
But behind the scenes, Watson has helped to ensure the quarterback position at Clemson remains in good hands. The junior has worked to make the Tigers’ young quarterbacks better as players and leaders field throughout what will likely be his final season at Clemson.
“Deshaun takes a lot of pride in that. He always has … just the example that he sets every single day,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “They come to work every day and they come to these meetings and they’re sitting there with Deshaun, and he prepares like a coach. He takes notes like a coach. It’s unbelievable the example that he’s set, and not just football-wise, but who he is as a person. How he’s handled himself off the field. He’s always where he’s supposed to be early and stays late.”
Kelly Bryant, Tucker Israel and Zerrick Cooper will battle for the starting quarterback job this spring, while a couple of talented incoming freshmen in Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice could compete for playing time in 2017 as well.
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Watson’s message to the quarterbacks already on campus has been you have to work hard to be successful.
“Watch film and put in the work throughout the week,” he said. “It’s the way you practice and do things off the field that brings the success Saturday on the field. I’m just helping those guys mentally and physically.”
Bryant, who Swinney tabbed as the favorite to win the job going into the spring, said being able to learn from Watson is invaluable.
“On the field, it speaks for itself with how he carries himself, his decision making, how he releases the ball, his reads,” Bryant explained. “Off the field, him graduating in 2 1/2 years says a lot, and just sitting back and observing him and how he carries himself on campus and when he’s around other people. That’s been really good to see, how he takes the young quarterbacks under his wing.”
While Bryant’s the favorite, he knows he has plenty to prove. In limited playing time this season, the sophomore has passed for 48 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 22 yards and a score.
A focus for Bryant in the offseason will be becoming a more polished passer and getting better with his decision making. If he does those things, he believes he can win the starting job, but knows he’ll have to earn it.
“They always instill that nothing’s going to be given,” Bryant said of the Clemson coaching staff. “It’s going to be given to the guy who has worked the hardest and put the time in and is showing it out there on the practice field. I know that nothing’s going to be given. I’ve still got to work.”
Bryant added he also needs to become a more confident player. Watson said Bryant becoming more sure of himself is key to his success, as well as the team’s.
“If he goes, the whole offense goes and the whole team goes,” Watson said. “He’s got to have that confidence and do his part to make sure everything else is successful.”
Who: Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1)
When: 7 p.m., Dec. 31
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
Line: OSU by 3