Watch out ACC: Here comes Deshaun Watson
College Contributor Network
Well, that didn't take long. Just five weeks into the season, the Deshaun Watson era at Clemson has officially begun. Dabo Swinney sounded like a broken record earlier in September, assuring the media that there was no quarterback competition between the senior starter, Cole Stoudt, and Watson. Now, a few short weeks later, the situation has completely flipped and Watson has secured the starting job for the Tigers.
It all started two weeks ago in Tallahassee, after Stoudt led three scoreless drives to start the game against the top-ranked Seminoles. Clemson's fourth possession featured Watson under center, who led the Tigers on a 75-yard march that resulted in a field goal. Swinney and Watson never looked back, and Stoudt never came back into the game. Although Clemson eventually lost in overtime, the true freshman played well enough to earn the start for last week's game against North Carolina.
Watson left no doubt that Swinney had made the right call. He shredded the Tar Heels' defense for six scores, tying the ACC record. The 19-year-old also threw for 435 yards, completing 27 of 36 passes. Only Tajh Boyd has thrown for more yards in a single game for Clemson -- not a bad debut for the kid from Gainesville, Ga.
While Watson's fast start is impressive, it's not surprising. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound dual-threat quarterback was one of the most talented prospects in the 2014 class. Rivals.com had him ranked as a five-star recruit and the top overall player at his position. At Gainesville High School, Watson set Georgia state records for total offensive yards (17,134) and total touchdowns (218). On top of leading his team to its first state championship in over 100 years, Watson was also the state Player of the Year as a sophomore, junior, and senior. Talk about an impressive track record.
Many assumed it was only a matter of time before Watson took over the starting duties for Clemson. There was never any doubt that he was going to be the future of the Tigers' offense, but it was just a question of how long it would take before he surpassed Stoudt.
Clemson already dismissed its talented junior quarterback, Chad Kelly, from the program last spring, in a move that seemed to be paving the way for Watson. While Stoudt was impressive in camp, he would have had to really excel early on to hold off the surging freshman. That didn't happen, and the job now rightfully belongs to Watson.
Clemson's playoff hopes may have been dashed after losses to Georgia and Florida State, but there is still plenty to play for moving into full-time ACC play. The Seminoles have looked shaky, and one loss by them puts the Tigers right back into the mix for the ACC title.
This weekend, Clemson is host to an impressive NC State team. The Wolfpack nearly upset Florida State last week, and its 4-1 record reinforces the gutsy effort against the Seminoles. NC State is certainly an upgrade in competition from the struggling Tar Heels, and it will be interesting to see how Watson fares. I would expect Clemson's offensive coordinator, Chad Morris, to open up more of the playbook in the rookie's second start, which could be an exciting site to see.
Regardless of what happens on Saturday, there's no denying that the future looks bright under center for the Clemson Tigers.
Ted Gioia is a junior at Syracuse University with majors in Finance as well Television, Radio, and FIlm. Born in North Buffalo, he is an avid Bills and Sabres fan. You can follow him on Twitter @Ted_Gioia