By Will Vandervort
Last week, Clemson junior defensive tackle Josh Watson announced he was not going to be coming back for his final season in Tigertown. Following practice Wednesday night, head coach Dabo Swinney confirmed it.
The Tigers’ head coach said Watson actually brought the idea of leaving Clemson after the 2013 season to his attention last May in his exist interview after the spring game. Saturday’s noon kickoff against The Citadel will be his last game in Death Valley.
Swinney says he can understand Watson’s decision because he graduates next month and he is eager to begin the next chapter in his life.
“He is focused more on what is next for him,” Swinney said. “I really wish he would come back. I certainly don’t want him to leave. Anytime you have a chance to keep a great player around here you would like for him to be here, but he is ready from a maturity standpoint to take it to the next level
“I think he can play on the next level. I really do. He is probably going to have to have some kind of back surgery when the season is over. It has been a little nagging injury he has had to deal with. I think he just wants to really focus on getting healthy and seeing what comes next for him.”
Swinney says, “they love Josh” and that he has been a tremendous asset and ambassador for Clemson.
“He is graduating with a whole year left and already has his degree,” Swinney said. “Those are decisions everybody has to make along the way, but my objective is for these guys to get their diplomas.”
Though he is graduating and he is technically a senior because he was redshirted as a freshman, Watson has chosen not to run down the hill as a member of the senior class this Saturday against The Citadel.
“He did not want to be honored as a senior. I certainly would have (let him),” Swinney said. “Graduation is the key to me, but that was not something he wanted to do. He will be honored at our banquet as a senior and he will get all the benefits of a senior as well.”
If there is one position where the Tigers could afford to lose a player it is at defensive tackle. Clemson will get Carlos Watkins back in the spring after a car wreck ended his season as well as Scott Pagano, who redshirted this fall.
“We are going to be just fine at that position,” Swinney said. “We have a great group of young men in there that have a ton of experience. That is a positive for us.”
Injury update. Swinney says the Tigers are in great shape from an injury standpoint especially considering this time of year when there are several teams in much worse shape.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd (shoulder), who said he practiced very little on Monday, participated in both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices and was not limited.
Reserve running back C.J. Davidson (knee) is not quite ready to play, which Swinney says is unfortunate.
“I thought he was about ready to explode in that Virginia game,” the Clemson coach said. “I hate that he is not quite there. He is close, but he is not quite there.”
Fellow reserve running back Zac Brooks, who has been second string much of the year, is as healthy as he has been in a while because he has not played or been banged on in practice the last couple of weeks.
Swinney says they will like to have all hands on deck at running back for this week’s game against The Citadel because they have been very limited the last couple of games because of injuries to Brooks and Davidson.