He's too good not to play.
That's just one of the reasons that Deshaun Watson will be on the field for the Tigers this fall, beginning with Clemson's opener against Georgia on August 30.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chad Morris shot down conventional wisdom - that Watson would have redshirted had Chad Kelly remained on the team - when he stated emphatically the coaching staff had already decided to play Watson this season.
"Deshaun wasn’t going to red-shirt anyway," Morris said. "He wasn’t going to red-shirt. He was that good. That was the consensus from the get-go, and that was the consensus after watching him the first couple of practices in the spring. We knew that he was going to be special."
Tigers have to play Watson
Morris said that Watson will play against Georgia in a role yet to be determined.
"What is his role and how much will he play that is all to be determined through the progress," Morris said. "We're excited about ( Cole) and he's our starter. But Deshaun is going to play."
There's more to that decision than Watson's considerable talent, Dabo Swinney said.
"We have to get him some experience as soon as possible because we don't have any experience outside of Cole," Swinney said. "That's been a real luxury for us for three years. We'll definitely have some kind of plan going into each game on how we want to get him in. We have to get him some experience as soon as possible."
Swinney said Watson is considerably more advanced as a first-year freshman than Tajh Boyd was as a redshirt sophomore - primarily because of his four years of experience running a similar offensive system at Gainesville (Georgia) High.
"The last time we had this situation was in 2011 when Kyle Parker was gone and Tajh Boyd was taking the reins and we had a first-year freshman named Cole Stoudt as the backup," Swinney said. "I'm sleeping a lot better than I was then.
"Tajh hadn't played much, and not only had he not played, it was a new system for him, plus everything was new as far as ball-handling and what we were teaching from a decision-making standpoint. The zone read was not something he had done. So it was a big learning curve.
"That's what Cole knows. He's prepared every week to be the starter, and he's done it before the live bullets. There's a lot of value in that.
"And then with Deshaun, not only did he go through spring, he's been doing what we do since he was 14 years old. We're not spending a lot of time talking about how to make the mesh with the back or how to read the end or the secondary and the second and third-level defenders. He already understands all that."
Stoudt sees Watson's progress
Swinney said he expects Watson to challenge Stoudt's position as the starter - a competition that he believes will help both players develop.
"Cole obviously wants to have a great year and lead this team to many wins," Swinney said. "But Deshaun's not going to sit over there and say 'OK, I'm the backup. I'll just stand over here and y'all tell me when to go in.' That's just not going to be the case.
"He's going to show up every day and try to win the job. That creates a sense of urgency and the type of environment we want."