CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has apologized to Tigers’ fans for his “negative energy” that he believes has contributed to the team’s sluggish start on offense.
Watson said he spoke with quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter on Sunday night and head coach Dabo Swinney on Monday morning about re-focusing his attitude to more of the fun-loving, care-free vibe he brought to the Tigers in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“It’s a blessing, it’s a privilege to be in this position,” Watson said. “It just kind of got away from me for a little bit with all the attention that I’ve gotten. So, I’ve just got to find myself and be back.”
All will likely be forgiven by Clemson fans if Watson and the Tigers quickly return to their explosive 2015 form.
So far, though, No. 5 Clemson has been an offensive mishmash of overthrown balls, dropped passes and line breakdowns in too-close-for-comfort wins over Auburn (19-13) in the season opener and Troy (30-24) on Saturday — a far cry from the “super offense ” they were expected to have this season.
The Tigers (2-0) play FCS opponent South Carolina State this week, a team they’ve outscored 179-20 in three all-time meetings.
For Watson, 20-2 as Clemson’s starter, the next game will be a mix of fun and execution.
“We’ve got to get back to basics and playing Clemson football,” he said.
Watson, who turns 21 on Wednesday, acknowledged the crush of media attention last season as Clemson rose to No. 1 disrupted his routine and, at times, his laid-back nature. When things intensified this offseason, Watson wore a more sullen face to interviews, his answers to questions becoming clipped and repetitive.
He apologized for that, too.
“It can easily be on the flip side,” Watson, the possible No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, said with a smile. “No one wanting to talk to me.”
Watson was far from alone in offensive miscues against Troy. Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott counted eight drops from Tiger receivers, Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow and Trevion Thompson all missing balls that could’ve — should’ve in Scott’s opinion — been touchdowns.
There was also receiver Ray-Ray McCloud’s massive punt return flub, flipping the ball at the 1 before crossing into the end zone to negate what would’ve been a 75-yard special teams’ touchdown.
Scott said if Clemson’s receivers make the plays they should, the Tigers experienced offense will look more like the juggernaut many expected from the outset of the season with Watson among the Heisman Trophy front-runners.
“The first two games, we’ve had a season’s worth of (bad) experiences that we’ll learn from,” Scott said.
Watson, at times, expects too much of himself.
“Their bar is set very high,” Scott said. “And when you’re not reaching that bar, you’re very disappointed.”
Watson’s numbers are solid, just not spectacular — and he emphasized he was not apologizing for his play. He has thrown for 540 yards, hitting 52.9 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and three interceptions. A 1,000-yard rusher last season, Watson’s run for 76 yards through two games and has not yet broken the big one that made Clemson’s attack so effective a year ago.
His first of three TD passes against Troy set a Clemson school record with an touchdown throw in 18 straight games.
Watson, who’s had shoulder, finger and knee injuries while at Clemson, said physically he’s fine.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Watson felt the negative energy in the Troy game, a restless crowd of nearly 80,000 growing more frustrated each time Clemson left the field short of points.
“That starts with me,” he said, thus his “I’m sorry” to fans and pledge to improve.
Watson believes he’ll bring a more positive attitude to the field when he suits up this week and continue to work to bring the Tigers back to the top.
“We’ll turn that thing around,” he said, “and go back to work and start playing Clemson football.”
Online: AP College Football website www.collegefootball.ap.org