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History on Deshaun Watson's side as returning Heisman finalist

In 2015, Deshaun Watson become the first player in FBS history to throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. AP Photo/Richard Shiro

For Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, handling expectations is simple. Each year brings new challenges. All of last season's individual and team accolades are meaningless as the Tigers grind through their 2016 fall camp.

"We know we have a target on us and we have to go 10 times harder to get where we want to go this year," Watson said last month. "We just got to take it one day at a time and make sure everybody is on the same page. Know and understand that nothing is going to be given to us, we have to go earn it."

That being said ... last year is a heck of a harbinger for Watson's 2016, at least from an individual standpoint. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting, enters this fall on the short list of front-runners for the award and, if recent history is any indication, will at the very least make it back to New York this December for another Heisman ceremony.

Watson is the 12th quarterback since the turn of the century to return to school after being invited to Manhattan as a Heisman finalist. Of the previous 11, seven made return trips to Times Square the following year as finalists. Among the QBs who didn't were 2013 winner Jameis Winston -- who still led Florida State to the College Football Playoff in 2014 -- and 2010 finalist Kellen Moore, who lifted Boise State to a 12-1 record in 2011.

Winners like Jason White, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel made it back. Colt McCoy was a second- and third-place finisher. Andrew Luck was the runner-up in consecutive years.

This year brings Watson, the latest phenom tasked with living up to mushrooming preseason hype. He led Clemson to a runner-up finish in 2015 while becoming the first player in FBS history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. Nick Saban, coach of defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Alabama, was all too happy to cede the summer spotlight to Watson, telling ESPN.com's Travis Haney last month that the junior is "the best player in college football since Cam Newton."

Interestingly enough, Watson and Newton have grown close in recent years, with Watson having played in Newton's 7-on-7 camp in 2013.

"He just gives me good advice, pretty much off the field saying to be true to who I am, listen to the coaching staff, buy into the process, don't get yourself distracted with the outside things, just focus on the main things," Watson said.

Newton, of course, is a Heisman winner. But he entered that charmed 2011 campaign relatively off the radar. All eyes will be on Watson when he takes the first snap Sept. 3, under the lights at Newton's alma mater, Auburn.

Watson will likely have his mentor rooting against him, at least on that night. For the bulk of the looming campaign, though, history will be in Watson's corner.

"As big as an advantage as you can have," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of having Watson on his team. "Pretty big advantage, because he's an incredible player and he's a great leader that's committed to everything right that you could possibly want in a young man. So it's a huge advantage when you've got a guy like him that can run and throw and is as smart as he is and is committed. Loves to prepare -- loves to prepare -- loves the grind.

"Everybody wants that type of advantage, that's for sure."