Watson: "We are not going to be the weak point"

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – One of the biggest questions concerning Clemson’s defense entering spring practice centered on the defensive tackle position, where the Tigers have to replace two starters in Rennie Moore Rennie Moore
RS Sr. Defensive Tackle
#94 6-3, 265
Saint Marys, GA

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and Brandon Thompson Brandon Thompson
Sr. Defensive Tackle
#98 6-2, 310
Thomasville, GA

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With one scrimmage left in the 2012 spring, it appears that many of the questions surrounding the middle of the Tigers’ defensive line have been answered – at least until the games start.

Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables has mentioned several times in interviews that one of the big reasons for the excitement surrounding the defensive tackles has been the accelerated success of DeShawn WilliamsDeShawn Williams
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#99 6-1, 290
Central, SC

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, Grady JarrettGrady Jarrett
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#50 6-0, 290
Conyers, GA

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, Tavaris BarnesTavaris Barnes
RS Fr. Defensive End
#6 6-4, 270
Jacksonville, FL

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and Josh WatsonJosh Watson
RS Fr. Defensive Tackle
#91 6-4, 290
Wilmington, DE

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Watson was rated as the No. 3 tackle prospect coming out of prep school in 2010, but redshirted that season. In 2011, he played just 21 snaps while biding his time behind Thompson and Moore, but Watson told TigerNet Monday that the two seniors never let him forget his time was coming.

“Those guys were telling me last year that, ‘Hey, we are going to be gone next year and you have to step up.’ You can't let the defensive line down, because that is what we [at Clemson] are known for,” Watson said. “So this past offseason, DeShawn and Grady and Tavaris, we worked hard in the weight room and we worked on our foot drills. We have worked a lot with [former Tiger lineman and current Player Development Coach) Demonte McKenzie. We work with him every day and he is a big part of everything we do.”

Watson said the players listened to fans and the media talking about the defensive tackles being the weak link of the defense and used it for motivation.

“After Yams [Thompson] and Rennie left, everybody said that we would be the big hole on the defense and that we were the question mark,” Watson said. “We worked hard over the off-season, and we said we are not going to be the weak point like everybody thought. We just took the initiative that we were going to get better every day.”

Watson said he took the advice of Thompson and Moore, who told him that every young player has to work their way up the depth chart.

"Playing behind Rennie and Brandon, they taught me that you have to be patient,” he said. “They'd tell me to just stick with it, that we were all in the same boat and they had to work their way up, too. They didn't come in great and with draft status. They had to work at it. That's what I'm trying to do; work on my craft every single day."

Watson said the tackles also have worked on being coachable.

"Being coached, when you're corrected on something, don't make the same mistake twice,” he said. “Go back, remember it and fix it. That's what we've been doing."

Attitude is also something the young tackles are working on.

"The way I explain it is they're not going to run in my gap,” Watson said. “I don't want any lineman touching my linebackers. That's the approach I've taken. The linebackers don't have to make all the plays. We can do it, too. That ball isn't going to come through my gap."

The group gets a stern first test in the season opener against Auburn in the Georgia Dome, but Watson says he and defensive teammates will have already seen some pretty good offensive players once September rolls around.

"We're used to playing in tough conditions,” he said. “Our offense is fast, so we have to be able to think fast and react, get down and slide. We're getting a lot of reps this off-season. When we play Auburn, people may think our eyes will be wide because it’s our first game. But we'll be used to some things. I think it'll all come together for us. I think we'll be very successful this season."

Defensive coordinator praised Watson and the whole group after Monday's scrimmage in which Watson had five tackles and a sack.

"He [Watson] practiced in our mini-scrimmage well. He's working on the fundamentals of the game,’ Venables said. “He's active. He uses his hands well. He's tough and plays hard. He's refining things. He's got a good grasp of things. Some encouraging things with him all spring. You can't play good defense without those guys up front playing well, he and Grady [Jarrett] and DeShawn {Williams]. Tavaris Barnes has been out for a couple of practices. Even 95, Tra Thomas, stepped in and did some positive things. I really feel like we have four, maybe a fifth guy who can play for us. I've been very encouraged with that group."

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