CLEMSON, S.C. -- When Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson apologized to media and the fans earlier this week for his demeanor so far this season, he mentioned there were "a lot of distractions" that caused players to lose focus.
“It starts with the mindset of all the guys, just enjoying it and understanding that we only get 12 Saturdays, seven of them home and just taking advantage of that because you only get to live this opportunity once and really enjoy it,” Watson said. “The college experience goes so fast, especially with a whole bunch of guys having the opportunity to move on in a couple months, a lot of distractions going around but we’ve got to get back to the main thing and focus on the moment.”
Hearing a player mention NFL distractions is not necessarily a surprise. Florida State and Ohio State players and coaches talked about the same thing in the seasons after they won their most recent national championships.
Clemson lost in the national championship game, and several players opted to return for their senior season to try and win it this year. Watson has all but said he is going to turn pro when this season ends. So the fact that he cited this as one distraction seems telling.
But coach Dabo Swinney tamped down the notion when asked whether he has noticed players distracted because they might be thinking about their future pro careers.
“This is the most focused group we’ve had,” Swinney said this week. “Much better summer than last summer, less discipline we’ve had in a long time. No accountability runs in the spring. As good a camp as I’ve ever been around. We beat Auburn at Auburn, all of a sudden that’s not good anymore. I guess that doesn’t count for anything.
“People overcomplicate things. Artavis [Scott] dropping two balls has nothing to do with the fact that he’s graduating in December and going to the next level. These guys want to go to the next level, you better play well. If you look at [Kevin] Dodd and Shaq [Lawson], well, they played well. Mackensie [Alexander], he played well, that’s why they had opportunities. Everybody’s looking for some type of excuse for being 2-0 and I don’t see it that way. I see it as a group of guys that are pressing a little bit and some guys who aren’t playing up to their capabilities.”
Swinney said the slower start on offense is all about making sure the little things are done right, and repeatedly cited 12 dropped passes in the first two games as major reason why the Tigers have struggled.
“Twelve drops in two games? I don’t know that we’ve ever had that,” Swinney said. “I don’t know that we dropped 12 balls all last year. That’s been very frustrating, then [Watson] starts pressing a little bit, and you feel like you’ve got to be perfect. From my perspective, these are very simple fixes. If the plays weren’t there, if we were getting physically outmatched, that would be a different thing. This is just a matter of us being a little crisper in our execution and guys playing to their potential. We’ve played two games. And we’re 2-0 and one of them at Auburn at 8 o’clock in an opener against an incredibly talented defense. And we found a way to win.
“Trust me, we’ll be just fine on offense.”