To help get you through college football’s slow days of late June and early July — before conference media days launch the preseason festivities — we’re counting down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. One Gamecock and one Tiger every day, so you can spend part of your summer studying the players who will make a difference for your team come autumn.
CLEMSON’S NO. 5 MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
JOSH WATSON, JUNIOR, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Clemson’s below-average rush defense has already been discussed in the Grady Jarrett entry. As a reminder: 156 yards on the ground per game, which is 56th nationally and eighth in the ACC. That was actually an improvement upon the previous year: Clemson was 10th in the ACC in 2011 (177 yards a clip). It’s not an unsalvageable situation, but guys like Josh Watson have to make the leap from good to … well, better. Even if he’s not a Nagurski winner, Watson’s the guy with the expectations.
Watson’s production isn’t necessarily quantifiable. The 2012 numbers say 54 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, 12 quarterback pressures and so on and so forth. He’s got a defensive end’s mindset, but he’s asked to play in the trenches alongside the nose guard Jarrett. The best defensive tackle sets are the ones who aren’t necessarily hearing their names yelped by play-by-play announcers; they’re the ones quietly pushing back the line of scrimmage and tearing apart the opposing quarterback’s rhythm, keeping running backs bottled up and ultimately allowing the back seven to make plays if the rush ends aren’t being dominant. Certainly, Clemson can (and will) win a shootout here and there. But depending on that method every single week gets you 9-3, not 11-1 or beyond.
Position: Defensive tackle
Height/weight: 6-4, 285
Hometown: Wilmington, Del.
Last year: Started nine games, recorded a QB pressure in nine out of 13 games, led all Tigers’ defensive linemen with 54 tackles
Previously: No. 12 Jr. DT Grady Jarrett, No. 11 Jr. LB Stephone Anthony, No. 10 Fr. TE Jordan Leggett, No. 9 Jr. RT Gifford Timothy, No. 8 Fr. CB Mackensie Alexander, No. 7 Soph. FS Travis Blanks, No. 6 Jr. WR Adam Humphries
COMING THURSDAY: No. 4