During his press conference on Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had plenty of praise for several of his players that are nearing the end of their time at Clemson.
Asked about Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, Ben Boulware and Jadar Johnson, Swinney expressed appreciation for their contributions to Clemson and confidence they will be successful after moving on from the school.
Swinney first discussed the transformation of Johnson from when he arrived at Clemson to now. As a freshman, Johnson struggled to settle in after enrolling early and considered transferring to South Carolina State.
Now, the senior safety leads Clemson with five interceptions and was recently voted a captain of the team by his teammates.
“He just kind of hung in there,” Swinney said. “I think the first year he really wasn’t fully committed and was just frustrated and not sure if he was good enough in a lot of things. But he grew through that, and I’m really proud of him.”
Swinney believes Johnson will make an early impact in the NFL.
“I think he’s going to be an excellent pro,” Swinney said. “I think he’s going to play early as a pro. He has great instincts for the position, excellent special-teams guy, and he’s developed into a very good leader.”
Swinney thinks Boulware has a future in the NFL after his senior season, as well.
Swinney said scouts will take notice of what he can offer a team when they turn on the film. He added that Boulware, Clemson’s leading tackler with 114 tackles, has an “unbelievable mentality for the game.”
“Ben is always ready to play,” Swinney said. “That’s one thing you can count on with Ben. Always ready to practice.”
“He’s one of those guys that will fight you in practice if you want to take him out a rep,” Swinney joked.
On the other side of the ball, Swinney said Williams has gained a different perspective on the game after missing all of last season with a broken neck.
Swinney has seen a different level of commitment from Williams in practice since he first returned to action in the spring.
“I think this year, his level of appreciation of just being able to practice and being able to work at it is just way higher than it was coming into last year,” Swinney said.
Williams has picked up where he left off before the injury. The junior receiver has 84 receptions for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns through 13 games.
“He worked his tail off this summer,” Swinney said.
As for Watson, Swinney lauded his leadership and the example he has set for his teammates throughout his career.
“Just his leadership, how he’s led and the example he’s set for everybody,” Swinney said. “It’s just incredible. Made the honor roll again this semester. One of a record 48 guys to have 3.0 or better.
“He’s always working. That’s what makes him special is the things that people don’t see with Deshaun.”
Swinney believes Watson has upheld the standard that has been set for Clemson’s program.
“You’re talking about a guy that has handled himself in an incredible way and demonstrated to everyone what the standard should look like,” Swinney said. “To me, that’s his legacy.”