By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Defensive tackle Josh Watson knew coming into spring practice that he and the rest of the defensive linemen would have to step their game up in order to fill the shoes of starters Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore who left for the NFL.
“Brandon and Rennie told me that last year that they’re going to be gone and we’d have to step up and carry on the tradition of a strong d-line at Clemson,” Watson said. “That’s what we’re known for, so I took that approach over the winter, so did DeShawn, Grady and Tavaris Barnes, we got in the weight room and worked hard, Demont Mackenzie he was helping us out literally every day after workouts, he’s a big part of why we’re doing well right now along with Coach Brooks.”
First year defensive coordinator Brent Venables has praised the defensive tackles since he first saw them work out earlier this spring, something that Watson and the rest of the interior line take pride in.
“I can’t say that I’m surprised because of the way we worked and came together,” he said. “We come out and work hard every day and coach when he corrects you, you don’t make that same mistake again. Or remember that you made that mistake and fix it this time, that’s what we’ve been working on and getting better at. Overall we’ve been doing pretty well and we’re going to take everything that we’ve done throughout spring, take it into the summer and get even better.”
Watson has been receiving more reps than he had in the past, something that he considers critical to his improvement, especially once the season starts.
“Experience is everything,” Watson said. “We’re going to be playing in some huge games and the more reps we get here, we’ll be used to it when we get to play Auburn, and our eyes won’t be wide like most people would think. We’ll be calm, we’ll be used to playing in tough conditions, playing against a fast paced offense, thinking on the run what to do, and you’ve got to know what to do and will have to be able to react. Things are coming along for us and I believe we’ll have success.”
Watson was one of the many defensive players who had a breakout performance in Clemson’s second scrimmage on Monday as he recorded 5 tackles including a sack and a tackle for loss.
“On the d-line I took the approach this summer, the linebackers are playing downhill, I’m saying our opponent isn’t going to run in my gap and won’t touch my linebacker,” Watson said. “That’s the approach I take on the d-line, I don’t want any linemen touching my linebacker, they’re not going to get one free, and that ball isn’t going to come through my gap. That’s the approach I take.”