Deshaun Watson is a historically accomplished high school quarterback who committed to Clemson when he was just a sophomore. The 6'3", 200-pound prospect from Gainesville, Ga. has drawn interest from an expansive list of college programs, including Alabama, Oregon, Georgia, Miami and Ohio State.
This September, he became the first Georgia player to accumulate 10,000 career passing yards, per the Barrow County News. Watson broke the all-time state record during his junior season.
Listed as the nation's No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 247Sports composite rankings, there's belief that he's capable of contributing early at the college level. Watson started his senior season at Gainesville High School with a dominant performance.
He completed 20 of 30 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-12 win over Chattooga, according to 247Sports. The coveted playmaker won't sneak up on opponents this fall, but defensive efforts remain seemingly futile when Watson is operating behind center.
As he continues his crusade on the high school record books, let's assess Watson as a collegiate prospect by examining what he does well and how he can still make strides as a passer.
Everything about Watson's skill set screams that he's ready to excel in Clemson's ambitious, up-tempo spread offense. Tigers senior quarterback Tajh Boyd, now in his third season as starter, has put up monster numbers and emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate in offensive coordinator Chad Morris's scheme.
Watson is slightly more athletic than Boyd and already has a larger physical stature, creating an extremely high ceiling in terms of potential. He isn't an elite speedster (247Sports clocks his 40-yard dash time at 4.89 seconds) but still poses a dangerous threat in the open field due to his ability to exploit rushing lanes and launch out of the pocket when he decides to tuck the football and turn upfield.
The spread attack should set the stage nicely for Watson to work with designed runs six to eight times per contest. His scrambling ability allows him to buy time outside of the pocket, where his outstanding vision is really on display.
Watson, while on the run, continues to keep his shoulders square and eyes on the prize. He doesn't divert his attention from receivers downfield, even when there's a defensive lineman barreling toward him.
Watson appears to have excellent peripheral vision, which allows him to avoid falling into the "tunnel vision" trap. Some passers have a penchant for locking in on one receiver, but you won't see that with regularity from Watson.
That makes life more difficult for defensive backs, who must already contend with his cannon of a right arm. Watson commands respect with his ability to sling the ball into a sliver of space with zip.
He throws darts with a flick of his wrist that hits receivers on intermediate crossing patterns. Watson is a technician in the passing game and does a great job of throwing to a spot rather than aiming for a teammate.
It's easy to love his demeanor, particularly when he's under duress. Watson is disciplined and remains calm through highs and lows during the course of a game.
You really have to nitpick when searching for significant flaws in Watson's approach. But that's our job here, so let's get into the details of his throwing motion.
There's a slight hitch in the back end of his delivery. It's not necessarily a major hindrance, and he still gets the ball out of his hand with speed and precision, but there's room for refinement here.
His deep ball stands to benefit the most from some slight mechanical alterations in the follow-through. His throws beyond 20 yards could use a bit more touch in order to consistently torch BCS-level secondary players at the next levels.
While Watson does an admirable job of diagnosing defenses pre-snap, he occasionally displays some impatient tendencies. It's primarily an issue of him settling for a safety valve rather than allowing the play to progress and taking advantage of a strained defense.
He displays a compact dropback but will occasionally rely too much on his upper body during throws, forgetting fundamentals with his feet in the pocket. This will improve with continued repetitions.
Watson would have been able to make the leap to the college game after his junior season. At this point, he should be focused on making slight refinements to his game, adding solid weight to his frame and chasing down a state football championship.
He projects as a player who can vie for a starting position during his first collegiate training camp, and you can be sure Clemson fans will be clamoring to see what Watson can do in orange and purple. Based on his potential, there's reason to believe Watson will emerge among the ACC's premier playmakers as an underclassman.
Opposing defenses will test the velocity of his throws, and if he can succeed at zipping balls past defensive backs in college, it will immediately open up his running ability. Linebackers will learn fast they're on a short leash when Watson surges toward the line of scrimmage in search of daylight.
Even if his career as a starter doesn't begin during his first year on a college campus, expect Watson to force his way onto the field early with a chance to seize the spotlight for several seasons.
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