It’s a question that Paul Johnson has been asked since Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has ascended to the national stage: Why isn’t Watson at Georgia Tech?
Watson, third in the Heisman Trophy voting a year ago, played his high school ball at Gainesville, about 45 minutes up the road from Georgia Tech. And he attended Johnson’s football camp when he was in the ninth grade. How, Yellow Jackets fans wonder, did he end up wearing that Clemson uniform?
Johnson addressed the issue again this week and said Watson was actually offered a scholarship when he was in the ninth grade. But Johnson said that Watson made it clear very early in the process that he wanted to go to Clemson, so that was the end of it.
“Those guys are easy to spot,” Johnson said. “They’re just not easy to get.”
Watson has had an impact on each of the past two meetings. In 2015, Watson completed 21-of-30 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets en route to a 43-34 win. In 2014, Watson was 5-for-7 for 27 yards and rushed seven times for 40 yards when he injured his knee on a 7-yard run. Clemson was ahead 3-0 and Watson had driven the team to the 21.
His replacement, Cole Stoudt, threw a pick-six to Jamal Golden three plays later and Georgia Tech went on to win 28-6.
“I have flashbacks about that play,” Watson told The State newspaper as the two teams prepare for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Thursday night in Atlanta. “I just remember pretty much that whole morning from warmups to getting ready to play, coming back from a hand injury and being excited to play, and then that first quarter going down. Of course, it’s going to pop up in my mind, but it won’t be anything too serious.”
Johnson will have scout team quarterbacks who will try to emulate Watson but chuckled at the idea that it was possible to duplicate his skills. Johnson added that it will be tough to throw new defensive wrinkles at Watson since he has played so many games.
“I think it’s difficult planning for their team,” Johnson said. “He’s a great individual player, but they’ve got a lot of other great football players. If you look, their skill levels are very high. All their receivers are good, their running backs are good, they have big physical linemen. And Watson is the guy that makes it all go, and he’s very talented, as well. They’ve got plenty of talent.”
This season Watson, a junior, has thrown for 692 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards.
Duo gets ACC honors: Center Freddie Burden and B-back Dedrick Mills were honored by the ACC for their work in the Yellow Jackets’ 38-7 on Saturday win over Vanderbilt.
Burden, a senior from Statesboro, was named offensive lineman of the week for anchoring the group that helped the Yellow Jackets amass a season-high 511 yards. Burden took eight defenders to the ground.
Mills, a freshman from Waycross, shared co-rookie of the week honors with receiver Ahmmon Richards of Miami. Mills ran for 58 yards and three touchdowns. He is the first true freshman to score three times since Johnson has been the team’s head coach.