In a truncated season, Deshaun Watson put up noticeable numbers. The Clemson Tigers‘ freshman quarterback completed 68 percent of his passes, tossed 14 touchdowns against two interceptions and maintained an interstellar quarterback rating of 188.6. That’s a spectacular start for the once highly-touted recruit.
Watson wears the retired number of former Tigers great Steve Fuller, but upon Watson’s arrival to Clemson, Fuller permitted the quarterback to use his archival No. 4. It’s apparent that Steve Fuller understands talent that’s as rare now as his was then.
A Watson-less 40-6 stomping of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Russell Athletic Bowl isn’t the only indicator that points to promise for the Tigers. Just as Dabo Sweeney landed the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 2013 (Watson, according to ESPN.com), he’s continued to road-warrior his way into building this year’s No. 4 recruiting class, having already secured the No. 2 ranked offensive tackle in the country, Mitch Hyatt.
Not only is Clemson playing it tough on the recruiting trail, the Tigers are also scrapping together a perennially competitive schedule, a slate that featured the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens and the South Carolina Gamecocks as non-conference matchups in 2014. The Tigers’ conference draw also included the Louisville Cardinals, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Florida State Seminoles, all experiences Watson and company will draw from when they play guaranteed competitors South Carolina and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 2015.
Now just before we look ahead to 2015 for good, let’s glance at 2014 one more time. Clemson’s leading rusher, Wayne Gallman, is also a freshman. Clemson’s leading receiver by yards, Mike Williams, is just a sophomore, and the Tigers’ leading pass-catcher, Artavis Scott, is a freshman as well. The idea of those three continuing to improve and perform in 2015 is as scary as it is exciting.
Clemson’s future is as bright as their hue of orange, and this is good not only for the Tigers, but also for the ACC. With the Big Ten adding Jim Harbaugh into the college football bloodstream, the ACC needs to maintain their edge and continue to build their reputation within the Power 5. Gaining rapport begins with the heavyweights performing well. Clemson impressed against Oklahoma, but now the Tigers’ leap truly begins — starting with Watson’s rehab, and hopefully ending in next year’s College Football Playoff.