Editor’s Note: The first in a series with OrangeandWhite.com where we project the 2015 stats for skill players.
One look at the numbers Deshaun Watson accumulated as a true freshman makes Clemson fans drool with anticipation of the season ahead. In an injury plagued campaign Watson completed 68% of 137 passes for 1,466 yards, 14 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Watson, he of the 330 career snaps, enters the fall as the grizzled veteran of Clemson quarterback squad, at least in terms of on field experience.
Watson showed a unique ability to complete longer passes hitting 73.3% of throws between 16-20 yards and 48.4% over 20 yards, but may have to rely on a shorter routes a little more often given the current make up of the offensive line.
While it’s difficult to criticize Watson for things that didn’t happen (more snaps/experience) it’s also difficult to assume Watson will continue a 14:2 TD to Interception rate, 10.7 yards per attempt, 15.8 yards per completion or a 188.6 QB efficiency rating or, as some Clemson fans believe, improve upon those numbers.
If Watson had enough passes to qualify among the NCAA leaders those numbers would have put him in the top 10 in completion percentage, 3rd in TD to interception ratio and #1 in efficiency, yards per attempt and yards per completion.
One way to dial back the hype a bit is to realize the majority of Watson’s numbers were put up against some, shall we say, questionable defenses. Again – not Watson’s fault – but still reality. Watson played 3 series at Georgia (11th ranked defense), a little more than 2 against Louisville (6th) and none against Boston College (17th).
The average weighted defensive ranking that Watson faced per drive? 97.1.
Almost of as much interest is the way in which Watson will, or won’t, be used in the running game in 2015 as the offense morphs from Chad Morris to the vision of Tony Elliott.
Here’s a mind bender: Watson played 330 snaps and threw on 137 of them, yet he was 49 yards away from being Clemson’s second leading rusher last season. When on the field Watson was a huge part of the Clemson ground game.
Three injuries in 9 months would make me less than eager to call Watson’s number if I were OC, especially with the unknowns waiting in the wings behind him at quarterback and it’ll be interesting to see how, and if, Elliott uses Watson in the running game more than as a decoy.
Gone are the days of leaving the quarterback in when the game is out of reach in order to achieve an insignificant record – the risks are too great – plus there’s a need to at least attempt to develop Nick Schuessler and, to a lesser extent, one of the freshman.
When the game is in hand, Watson will be on the sideline. His numbers may suffer a bit for it, but in the big picture it’s the right thing to do for Watson and the team.
2015 Projection: 68.0 Comp. % /252 YPG/30 TD/6 INT/240 rushing yards/4 TD
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