When you hear most people talk about the upcoming football season and how good the Clemson Tigers can be, it all starts and ends with one word – quarterback.
As we all know, the Tigers will have a new quarterback taking the snaps when they open defense of their 2016 National Championship on Sept. 2 vs. Kent State. Though having to replace a starting quarterback is always a big deal on any roster, the guy they have to replace this year is just not any quarterback.
They’re replacing Deshaun Watson, arguably the best player in Clemson history. Not only did he own 55 school records, but he was 32-3 (.914) as a starter and led the program to its first national championship in 35 years.
With Watson as the full-time starter the last two years, the Tigers went 28-2, won back-to-back ACC Championships for the first time in 28 years and played in back-to-back national championship games. Watson was also a two-time Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first in ACC history.
He also became the first ACC quarterback to win back-to-back Davey O’Brien Awards as the nation’s best quarterback and was the first ever two-time winner of the Manning Award, given to the best quarterback which includes post-season performances. Watson was also awarded the Johnny Unites Award as the nation’s best graduated or senior quarterback.
But replacing Watson isn’t about all the records and wins he compiled along the way the last three years. It’s more than that.
Watson had this uncanny ability you don’t find on just any quarterback. He was different than anyone Clemson has ever seen from the quarterback position. He has so much confidence in his ability and he carries himself in such a way that his teammates and coaches pick up on it immediately.
They feel his confidence. They feel he has the ability and sense to go get the job done no matter how difficult the situation.
Watson always says no moment is too big. It is about going out and having fun. When he steps on the football field, even when he is behind by three points with 2:01 showing on the clock in the national championship game and he has to drive the ball 68 yards on what is considered to be one of the best defenses in the history of Alabama football, Watson knows he is going to be successful.
Four times on 2016, Watson led Clemson to come-from-behind fourth-quarter or overtime wins. And in all four cases, he capped the game-winning drive with a touchdown pass. Three of those games were against Louisville, Florida State and of course Alabama when he found Hunter Renfrow wide open in the end zone for the game-winning score with one second left on the clock.
So Clemson is not replacing just any ole quarterback this upcoming season. It’s replacing the best player the school has ever had. That is why every conversation you hear in regards to the 2017 Clemson Tigers begins and ends with one word – quarterback.