By Will Vandervort.
Sometimes things change.
Following 17th-ranked Clemson’s victory over rival South Carolina last week, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney revealed quarterback Deshaun Watson played the game with a torn ACL and that he was going to play in the Tigers’ pending bowl game as well.
On Sunday during his teleconference with the media to officially announce Clemson’s invite to play Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29, Swinney said they will revisit Watson’s status for the Orlando, Fla., bowl game.
“Deshaun is available for the bowl game. We may go ahead and do surgery and try to get him on a three-week head start on his rehab,” Swinney said. “Obviously, he has a good eight months or so to rehab, but we really want him to be able to get all the skills and drills done this summer.
“That is something we are going to visit here pretty soon.”
Swinney says they could have a decision on Watson’s status in the next day or so.
“I literally have been on the road every day since the South Carolina game, I mean literally every day,” he said. “I have not had an opportunity to be involved in this and I will be out of the office until Thursday night. We will be having some of those discussions here tonight and tomorrow.
“We will make a decision and keep moving forward.”
If Watson does have surgery then Clemson will go with senior Cole Stoudt at quarterback in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Stoudt has been fighting a left shoulder injury since the NC State game on Oct. 4 and has struggled despite posting a 5-2 record as a starter.
“If Deshaun has the surgery then we will have Cole and Nick (Schuessler) available. Cole is not going to have any surgery,” Swinney said.
It is obvious Clemson’s offense is different without Watson in the lineup. The Tigers averaged 43 points and 540 yards a game with the true freshman playing quarterback and considerably less with Stoudt behind center.
The Tigers (9-3) averaged 26.1 points and 378.8 yards per game when Stoudt played at least two quarters of football.
Elliott to call plays. Swinney announced he will finalize his staff for the bowl game in the coming days, but he did say that running backs coach Tony Elliott, who was promoted to co-offensive coordinator along with wide receivers coach Jeff Scott, will call the plays when the Tigers’ play Oklahoma in the bowl game.
It has been known for a while that Elliott really took ownership of Chad Morris’ offense and was often times used a trusted source when it came to game planning and ideas surrounding play calls.
“It’s an opportunity for both of those guys to grow in their careers and all of that,” Swinney said. “I’ll be finalizing the staff here pretty soon. As for calling the plays, Tony will call the plays and he will do a great job with that.”
Swinney hired Elliott to be the running backs coach the same time Morris came in from Tulsa to the be the offensive coordinator. Morris was hired last Monday to be SMU’s new head coach.
Anthony suspended for two quarters. Swinney confirmed by NCAA rules linebacker Stephone Anthony will miss the first two quarters of the Russell Athletic Bowl because of his disqualification in the South Carolina game.
As you may recall, the senior linebacker was thrown out of the game after being called for targeting when he hit USC quarterback Dylan Thompson late in the third quarter of the Tigers’ win. Anthony was called for a roughing the passer penalty and targeting on the play.
It was the second time in four games a Clemson player was thrown out of a game for targeting. Safety Robert Smith was thrown out for targeting in the fourth quarter against Wake Forest.
There will be no recourse from the SEC or the ACC on what happened, according to Swinney.
Like the Smith call Swinney said Anthony’s ejection and subsequent suspension were not necessary and the coaches will have to go back this off-season and get better clarification of what the rule really stands for or is trying to prevent.
“I think what we all wanted to take out of football was the obvious cheap shot and that was not a cheap shot,” Swinney said. “At the very most maybe you throw a flag and say maybe he was a little late putting his hands on him, but there are a lot worse hits than that.
“They can call a 15-yard penalty, but it was vague and I didn’t even see that. But to call targeting, that was really, really poor and it is not what the intent of the rule is. It is not for that type of play and that is something that we as coaches have to go back and address and do a better job of defining what that play or rule should look like.
“I know this, I have had two of my best players thrown out of a game this year and half of another game for two hits that in no way, shape or form is indicative of what the intent of the rule is for.”