Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech defense faces tough challenge in Clemson’s Watson

ATLANTA -- Once again, the Georgia Tech defense will be tasked with stopping a quarterback with multiple skills. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson has earned his position as the starter during his freshman season, largely because he’s a multi-dimensional player.

This might not be good news for Georgia Tech, which hasn’t had the best luck against quarterbacks with a similar skill set this season.

“I think that we’ve struggled all year with mobile quarterbacks,” Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson said. “I guess we’re the fortunate ones that we get to welcome Deshaun Watson back, who is probably as good of a dual threat quarterback as there is in the country, especially for a young guy.”

Watson, who graduated from Gainesville, began the season behind Cole Stoudt. Watson earned his first start against North Carolina after playing well at Florida State and also started against N.C. State and Louisville before breaking a bone in his right hand early in the game against Louisville. Stoudt has started the past three weeks.

Watson has completed 75-of-112 passes for 1,176 yards, with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He threw for 435 yards against North Carolina. Watson also has rushed 51 times for 147 yards and three touchdowns, with five runs of 10 or more yards.

Georgia Tech has seen similar quarterbacks this season, with mixed results. North Carolina’s Marquise Williams threw for 390 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 73 yards and one touchdown. Last week, N.C. State’s Jacobi Brissett threw for 213 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 77 yards and one touchdown.

“I think what we saw as we got into the season is that he just really brought a dimension that really only he has the ability to bring,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Those are things that, until the lights are on and you’re in live situations, some of those things are harder to evaluate, the game-day instincts and all that kind of stuff.

“Just his ability to really run the football, that’s the biggest thing that he brings. I mean, he obviously can throw the ball, make all the throws. But the dimension of -- and the threat that he brings as far as the running game and his escapability in the passing game and his ability to extend plays -- that’s one of the things that makes him a very special player.”

Johnson knows about Watson, who attended football camp at Georgia Tech during his high school days.

“He’s a dynamic athletic. He’s got a really strong arm, and he’s been pretty accurate,” Johnson said. “He was in high school when he came to our camp. So there’s no question that you didn’t have to look long to know he was going to be a really special player.”