Don't expect the Tigers to fall apart

by - Correspondent -
The Tigers are built for sustained success, even without Deshaun Watson
The Tigers are built for sustained success, even without Deshaun Watson

The text came from a Georgia fan during a friendly back-and-forth last week about Georgia’s recruiting and what I deemed a questionable, at best, move as Kirby Smart reportedly pulled an offer from a player from Texas: “As soon as that quarterback leaves, Clemson will take a big step back.”

We all know that quarterback is Deshaun Watson, and it certainly appears he is headed to the NFL after this season, although Tigers fans can hold out hope, right?

But even if Watson does jump to the NFL after his junior season (who can blame him after the career he has had with a degree in hand?), this Clemson program looks to be in really good shape moving forward. Head coach Dabo Swinney and his terrific coaching staff have built a program – not one that has good teams followed by not-so-good teams (which we saw a lot of from Tommy Bowden) and certainly not one that is going to fall apart after one player departs.

Tajh Boyd had an unbelievable career at Clemson, one that helped turn the program around, and in my mind, he was the best quarterback Clemson has had during my time watching this program. Sure, there have been some other good ones (Steve Fuller, Homer Jordan, Rodney Williams, Woody Dantzler and Charlie Whitehurst come to mind immediately). But Boyd took things to another level and helped get this program on solid footing after a roller-coaster time with Bowden as the head coach.

So when Boyd finished his career, there was a lot of “What’s next?” talk from Clemson fans and certainly from folks looking at the program from the outside. But in came Watson (remember when there was actual conversation about a competition between Watson and Chad Kelly?), and things have continued on an upward trajectory.

Watson has had an unbelievable impact on this program. His cool and confident demeanor permeates through the entire program. Watson just being on the roster helped the Tigers land other elite talent, and once that talent has come together, the results have been undeniable.

He’s going to be difficult to replace, but no player is irreplaceable. Look, I’m not saying the next quarterback will be even better than Watson. That’s almost impossible.

But let’s don’t think Swinney and his program are going to fall apart, either. There are good quarterbacks already on the roster with Zerrick Cooper likely leading the way, and there are many more committed to the program in Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice this year and Trevor Lawrence next year. That’s a pretty good group, and those players can at least keep things going in the right direction.

And remember, this program isn’t just about one player. There is a ton of young talent on the roster at almost every other position, and those players should continue to grow and develop like we have seen Clemson players develop in recent seasons.

Even without Watson, this team will keep winning and winning at a high level.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at

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