Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said they have taken things slow with star quarterback Deshaun Watson this week as the second-ranked Tigers get set to host Pitt this Saturday in Death Valley.
Watson was injured late in the second quarter of Clemson’s 54-0 win over Syracuse on Saturday when he avoided pressure and ran 13 yards on a third-down play. However, Watson landed on his right shoulder, his throwing shoulder, and took himself out of the game a play later.
Clemson (9-0, 6-0 ACC) later reported before the start of the third quarter that Watson was available to play if the Tigers needed him. They were already up 30-0 at the time and backup quarterback Nick Schuessler led another touchdown drive to open the third quarter so Swinney decided to hold Watson in the second half.
Watson, who was wearing ice on his shoulder in the post-game press conference, did not attend any media interviews on Monday and Tuesday because, as Clemson’s Athletic Communications Department explained, he was receiving extra treatment for his shoulder.
Watson has spoken with the media every Monday the last three years except when he was injured in 2014.
“He has looked good. We have just kind of took it slow with him. There was a good bruise there,” Swinney said during Wednesday’s ACC Coaches Teleconference. “We took it slow with him on Sunday and Monday and he did a little bit more yesterday and he will be full go today.
“He is doing well. I expect him to go.”
Obviously, Watson’s status from here on out will be big for the Tigers as they make a run towards another ACC Championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. A win on Saturday against Pitt will clinch a spot in next month’s ACC Championship Game in Orlando and will be the program’s fifth ACC Atlantic Division Title under Swinney.
However, Swinney was encouraged with the way his team played after Watson left the game against Syracuse. The Tigers scored another 31 points after Watson left.
“That is what we talk about all the time, and it does not happen as often with the quarterback, but whether a receiver goes down, the next guys has to go in or a tight end, offensive lineman or D-lineman, the next guy has to go play,” Swinney said. “We prepare. Our twos get the same amount of reps as our ones. So I just think it is a great sign of the maturity of a guy like Nick Schuessler. Again, it’s hard when you don’t necessarily rotate a quarterback in our situation, but yet he has to be prepared to go lead the team and prepare to be the starter each and every week.
“So it takes a tremendous amount of maturity, commitment and discipline to prepare as the starter every week even though you may or may not play. I just think it is a great testament to Nick and how we practice and how we prepare, the job Brandon Streeter does in getting those guys ready.”
Schuessler finished the game completing 11-of-17 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Clemson’s offense finished with 565 total yards.
“So it was great to see him go in and finish a critical drive and complete a fourth down and a great drive before the half. I just think it is great confidence for Nick and also great confidence for our team to see him go out and perform in crunch time when we had to have it as opposed to coming in the fourth quarter when the game is decided,” Swinney said.