Watson Watch: Banged-up Clemson QB expected to play vs. Pitt
Clemson's Deshaun Watson (4) and Christian Wilkins celebrate Watson's touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) The Deshaun Watson watch is on at No. 3 Clemson.
The Tigers' Heisman Trophy contender fell hard on his right, throwing shoulder Saturday just before halftime in a 54-0 win over Syracuse and did not return. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Watson both said he could've returned, but with the Tigers (9-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) already up by four touchdowns at the break, it was not necessary.
Watson appeared with an ice pack on his shoulder in postgame interviews. He was not available for his regular Monday media session because he was taking treatment on the sore shoulder. A Clemson spokesman said he might be available on Tuesday.
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Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott was confident Watson would be behind center when the Tigers try and wrap up the ACC Atlantic Division against Pitt (5-4, 2-3) on Saturday.
Watson's roommate, receiver Artavis Scott, was also confident he'd catch passes from his longtime teammate.
''It's football,'' Scott said Monday. ''Everybody's banged up. He'll be fine.''
Watson, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior, has been extremely durable the past two seasons in leading Clemson to a 23-1 record – the lone loss coming to Alabama 45-40 in last January's national championship game.
Watson has been the main cog of a fast-paced offense where he's expected to move the chains with his legs along with his accurate arm. He became the first player in the Football Bowl Subdivision to throw for more than 4,000 yards and run for more than 1,000 last year.
Watson finished 2015 with 491 passes and 207 carries, without suffering any major injuries. That's why most orange-clad fans in Death Valley held their breath when Watson jogged to the sidelines with Clemson in the midst of a TD drive right before the half.
He came down hard on the shoulder after a tackle by Syracuse defenders Davion Ellison and Rodney Williams. Watson threw incomplete on the next play before leaving the game for good.
Swinney said Watson looked good on Sunday, would receive treatment Monday and that he would ''get him back in practice the early part of the week.''
Elliott said he and co-coordinator Jeff Scott will game play as they have the past two seasons – with Watson as their starting quarterback.
Clemson's offense showed it could operate with Watson on the sidelines as fifth-year senior Nick Schuessler threw for two touchdowns and 177 yards – more than Watson – in relief.
Schuessler, a one-time Mississippi State signee, has stood on the sidelines the past few years, backing up starter Tajh Boyd in 2013, Cole Stoudt and Watson in 2014, and Watson these final two seasons. Schuessler has no illusions he'll see much more playing time down the stretch if Watson's close to 100 percent.
''I just want to do well whenever I'm called on,'' Schuessler said.
It wasn't long ago some worried that Watson might be injury plagued .
Watson cracked a collarbone during his first spring practice in 2014, then injured a finger in a start against Louisville that same season. Watson returned four games later at Georgia Tech, but left that game early with a knee bruise.
Watson missed the next game before playing with a braced-up, torn ACL – Swinney said he tore it in practice that week and not against Georgia Tech – as the Tigers ended a humiliating, unprecedented five-game losing streak to rival South Carolina.
A short time later, Watson underwent knee surgery and was out for Clemson's bowl game to close the season. He has not missed a start since.
In Elliott's mind, that streak won't end this week.
''He's got a bruised shoulder, but was able to come out and throw the football'' in second-half warmups, he said. ''So no doubt'' about Watson starting.
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