CLEMSON — This segment has been far too infrequent this season. My apologies. I’ll fix that in 2014, pinky swear.
1) Dabo Swinney and Tajh Boyd will be underdogs in the respective awards they’re up for, but at least they’re breaking new ground.
Swinney is one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Club Coach of the Year honor. There are more qualified candidates like Duke’s David Cutcliffe – his Blue Devils, picked to finish last in the ACC Coastal Division, are on the brink of a trip to the league title game – Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel. But only Swinney and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer returned to the top 16 in this category.
Boyd’s part of an elite group of five senior or fourth-year junior quarterbacks that are finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. It’ll be hard to top Alabama’s A.J. McCarron or Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, but along with Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Georgia’s Aaron Murray, it’s an uber-accomplished group.
2) Speaking of Swinney and Boyd, the head coach is tired of answering questions about the quarterback’s shoulder.
Asked if Boyd was limited in practice this week Wednesday, Swinney said, “No, he’s good. He’s good.”
There’s no set gameplan on when to sit Boyd down Saturday against The Citadel – at least none that Swinney’s willing to share.
“I just don’t ever go into the game thinking like that,” Swinney said. “Those are game-time decisions, because what happens if you go out there and stink it up, and it’s 6-3 at halftime and they’re all booing us coming off the field? You’ve got to prepare to be a four-quarter game every week.
“If he plays four quarters or one quarter, I just want him to play very well.”
3) Junior defensive tackle Josh Watson turns 24 years old in two months.
Graduating from high school at 19, then spending a year at Hargrave Military Academy and redshirting the 2010 season at Clemson, Watson’s the oldest Tiger on the roster besides wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez. (Watson’s got Roderick McDowell beat by two days, by the way.)
A soon-to-be graduate, Watson will not come back to the football team for his senior year.
“He’s more focused on what’s next for him,” Swinney said. “I really wish he would come back, I certainly don’t want him to leave, because any chance you got a chance to keep a great player around here, you’d like for him to be here. But he’s just ready from a maturity standpoint to take it to the next level.”
Watson has 88 tackles over the past two seasons, appearing in all 23 games (12 starts) with four career sacks.
“He’s probably going to have some back surgery when the season’s over. I think he wants to focus on getting healthy and see what comes next for him,” Swinney said. “We love Josh. He’s been a tremendous asset and great ambassador for us.”
4) Part of the reason for Watson’s departure could be a lack of playing time, which for Clemson is a good problem to have.
Expected to be coming back next year are junior Grady Jarrett (56 tackles, 8 for a loss), junior DeShawn Williams and sophomore D.J. Reader along with Carlos Watkins and Scott Pagano returning from medical redshirts.
5) Expect McDowell to log most the carries Saturday, at least early on.
“He’s been the workhorse,” Swinney said. “He’s had a great yards per carry all year, so he’s kind of the key, steady guy.”
Top backup Zac Brooks, nursing a bad shoulder, is “probably as good as he’s been in a while, because he hasn’t been banged in a while.” D.J. Howard has only seen sparing duty with a bad ankle, while walk-on C.J. Davidson’s knee won’t let him go Saturday.
“C.J.’s not quite there, which is really unfortunate for him, because I felt like he was getting ready to explode in that Virginia game,” Swinney said. “Hate that he’s close, but not quite there.”
6) If you missed this unbelievable stat I tweeted the other day …
Here’s how dominant (and early) Clemson has closed out opponents: Sammy Watkins has a whopping three fourth-quarter catches this season.
— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) November 19, 2013
7) Dabo Swinney turned 44 years old Wednesday, and his team serenaded him with the proper song after practice.