TigerNet.com
Tuesday, April 8, 2014 10:50 AM
Watson injury shows fine line coaches walk in practice
by David Hood
Senior Writer

CLEMSON – Going “live” during practice and scrimmage situations has both its advantages and its drawbacks, something the Clemson football team found out late Monday.

For years, the Clemson message boards were infatuated with the fact that the Clemson defense didn’t tackle that much during the season, saying that was one of the reasons the Tigers had fielded poor tackling defenses.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney changed that policy prior to Clemson’s win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, resulting in a physical defense that outslugged the LSU offense. The Tigers also tackled instead of doing the typical “thud” during selected practices last season, and missed tackles were down. That’s the good.

Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris took a step away from the norm by making their quarterbacks “live” during recent scrimmages in an effort to get a better read on the quarterback competition.

Monday evening, the bad popped up when it was announced that freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a cracked collarbone during Monday’s scrimmage and will miss the rest of the spring.

“He played the entire scrimmage,” Swinney said of Watson.  “I am not really sure when he suffered the injury and I was not aware of it until after I met with the media after practice.  This is a shame because he was having an outstanding spring. Fortunately this is not a serious injury.  I hate that he will miss the Spring Game.  I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley. But he will be fine by the time summer workouts start again in May.  He does not require surgery.”

Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said injuries are a part of the game.

"It's part of putting them live," Morris said. "When you know you're not going to get hit, you hold the ball longer. “

Morris then said that the only way he can find out which quarterback can run his offense is to find out which one has the better feel in the pocket and can make plays once the pocket breaks down.


“All of them have to learn you have to get down when you're in the open field,” Morris said. “These guys have got to feel that they can get hit. How can you make a fair assessment of a guy with a quick whistle when the pocket breaks down around you? So you've got to put these guys in a live situation where they know, and their offensive line knows and they're taking pride and not letting their guy get hit. When the pocket breaks down around you, who's making plays and who isn't?"

Morris said that the policy will probably continue into fall camp as the coaches try and determine a starter.

"In fall camp, we might have to put them live again and make a decision and run with it," Morris said.

Now, Watson will have wait until the fall to make a further impression on the coaches. One observer of Monday’s scrimmage walked off the field and said that Watson was “dynamic” during the scrimmage and looked like he had been running the offense for years.

Hopefully, he will heal and get back in time for summer workouts and be ready for fall practice.



David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com