Kirk Herbstreit: No need to worry, Watson won’t pull a Clowney
|Thursday, August 25, 2016, 9:05 AM- -|
Kirk Herbstreit isn’t worried about Deshaun Watson pulling a Jadeveon Clowney this season, saying that Clemson’s Heisman Trophy candidate isn’t wired to fail.
Herbstreit, one of ESPN’s main college football analysts, was asked about Watson during a conference call with the media Wednesday. The questioner said that the hype preceding Watson’s junior season reminded him of the fanfare surrounding the beginning of Clowney’s junior year, and he wondered if Watson would also fall prey to injury fears and would see his numbers take a major hit.
Clowney registered eight sacks his freshman season, and that number rose to school-record 13 in 2012 as he became the best defensive player in all of college football. He entered 2014 as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, but he battled minor injuries all season and ended with just three sacks.
Clowney’s lack of production came from what many considered to be an attempt to stay healthy to secure a top draft spot, and the strategy worked as the Houston Texans drafted him with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. For the Texans, Clowney has appeared in just 17 games over two seasons and has registered 4 ½ sacks.
Herbstreit agreed with that assessment.
“I think that's a great question for a lot of the players that are back this year,” Herbstreit said. “Anytime you have a big freshman or sophomore year, and you come back for your third year, you hear a lot of people talking about, just don't get hurt and just get ready for the NFL, your lifelong dream. And while that is a big goal, obviously, and it should be for all these players, to me when you start worrying about things like that, that's really when you hurt your own cause. Whether it's going on to the NFL or helping your team win, I think the best thing to do is not forget what got you to that point. It was an attitude and approach that was selfless. It was not worrying about getting hurt.”
Herbstreit said that he’s seen more players than just Clowney take a step back in an effort to protect their NFL future, but as long as Watson focuses on Clemson’s team goals that shouldn’t happen.
“But you do see that happen from time to time,” he said. “I personally think, as long as he focuses on the team goals and what they can accomplish this year, and that's an important thing, then I think everything else will fall right into place.”
Herbstreit said Watson was impressive last season, and he doesn’t think Watson is “wired” to fail, even for the sake of NFL cash.
“In fact, Deshaun last year was coming off of an ACL, and probably pushed his rehab just to be able to try to get ready for those first couple games and maybe was a little bit ahead of schedule,” Herbstreit said. “I remember early calling a few of their games, they were kind of protecting him a little bit, but he wanted to be out there. So I would be shocked if he changed his attitude and his approach because I just think that's his DNA. That's how he's wired. I don't think any agents or anybody's going to be able to get to him and tell him to take it easy.”
Herbstreit on his thoughts about Auburn – Clemson’s first opponent – being greatly improved
“I think that's a big part of it. I think that this team just seems to be Jekyll and Hyde over the last four, five years. They're either really, really good or really, really inconsistent. If you go back and think about where they were, I think it might have been 2013, we actually had a "College Gameday," I think it was '13, where they played Mississippi State in Starkville. There were a lot of people excited about that team and what they were going to do. Actually, it was 2014. They were at No. 2 in the country, and Mississippi State was at No. 3, and they lost that game. It seems like from that game on they have not been able to get back to being the kind of team that they can be.
“I think, in fact, in the last two years in conference play, they're 6-10. Just have struggled.
“I think if you look at that and you look at their roster, and you look who they have at quarterback, I can see why the media said that this team's not going to compete, even in the back field with the tailback situation. For me, it's more of I think the defense is going to be really, really good. I think they're going to play with a chip on their shoulder. I think they're going to be mad at the world when they play this year, and I think defensively they're going to stay in almost every game that they play.
“Then it's just a matter of the head coach, Gus Malzahn and offense finding ways to put enough points on the board to win. But I would be careful just by looking at 8-5 two years ago, 7-6 last year, 6-10 in conference play over the last couple years. I think it's easy to look at this and say that this thing's heading in the wrong direction. I just think there's a little bit more backbone to the program than maybe all of us realize on the outside. And I think it will be led this year by the defense. I think, as I said, I think the defense is going to be one of the best in the SEC.”