Sports

Paul Johnson offered a scholarship to Deshaun Watson as a ninth-grader

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson scrambles away from the Troy defenders during a game earlier this month.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson scrambles away from the Troy defenders during a game earlier this month. AP

It’s a question that Paul Johnson has been asked since Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has ascended to the national stage: Why isn’t he at Georgia Tech?

Watson, second in the Heisman Trophy voting a year ago, played at Gainesville High School, about 45 minutes up the road from Georgia Tech. And he attended Johnson’s football camp when he was in the ninth grade. How, Yellow Jacket fans wonder, did he end up wearing that Clemson uniform?

Johnson addressed the issue again this week and said Watson was actually offered a scholarship when he was in the ninth grade. But Johnson said that Watson made is clear very early in the process that he wanted to go to Clemson, so that was the end of it.

“Those guys are easy to spot,” Johnson said. “They’re just not easy to get.”

Watson has had an impact on each of the last two meetings.

In 2015, Watson completed 21 of 30 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets en route to a 43-34 win. It was probably the low point of the season for the Yellow Jackets.

In 2014, Watson was 5-for-7 for 27 yards and rushed seven times for 40 yards when he injured his knee on a 7-yard run. Clemson was ahead 3-0 and Watson had driven the team to the 21. His replacement, Cole Stoudt, threw a pick-six to Jamal Golden three plays later and Georgia Tech went on to win 28-6. That was the low point for Watson.

“I have flashbacks about that play,” Watson told The State newspaper. “I just remember pretty much that whole morning from warmups to getting ready to play, coming back from a hand injury and being excited to play, and then that first quarter going down. Of course it’s going to pop up in my mind, but it won’t be anything too serious.”

Johnson will have scout team quarterbacks who will try to emulate Watson but chuckled at the idea that it was possible to duplicate his skills. Johnson added that it will be tough to throw new defensive wrinkles at Watson since he’s played so many games.

“I think it’s difficult planning for their team,” Johnson said. “He’s a great individual player, but they’ve got a lot of other great football players. If you look, their skill levels are very high. All their receivers are good, their running backs are good, they have big physical linemen. And Watson is the guy that makes it all go and he’s very talented as well. They’ve got plenty of talent.”

This season Watson, a junior, has thrown for 692 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 84 yards.

Notes: Center Freddie Burden and B-back Dedrick Mills were honored by the ACC for their work in Saturday’s 38-7 win over Vanderbilt.

Burden, a senior from Statesboro, was named offensive lineman of the week for anchoring the group that helped allow the Yellow Jackets amass a season-high 511 yards. Burden took eight defenders to the ground.

Mills, a freshman from Waycross, shared co-rookie of the week honors with receiver Ahmmon Richards of Miami. Mills ran for 58 yards and three touchdowns. He is the first true freshman to score three times since Johnson has been head coach.

Clemson at Georgia Tech

  • When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday
  • TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m.
  • Radio: WRCG-FM 92.1, 5:30 p.m.
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