Johnny Manziel’s highly-publicized pro day featured his personal coach George Whitfield chasing him with a broom to simulate a pass rush. The quirky drill incited a barrage of jokes from fans and writers on Twitter. Dabo Swinney decided to take a different course to prepare his quarterbacks for pursuing defenders—live contact. Seldom will coaches allow their signal callers to take shots in practice, and for good reason, as Clemson discovered Monday when highly-touted freshman QB Deshaun Watson broke his collar bone. The injury will sideline Watson for the remainder of spring ball.
Tiger fans, who eagerly awaited their first opportunity to see Watson in action at Saturday’s spring game, will have to wait until the fall or later. It should be noted that the injury is not too serious; Watson should only be down for three weeks. Additionally, the quarterback competition between Watson, sophomore Chad Kelly, and senior Cole Stoudt will continue into fall camp in August. By no means is the true freshman out of the race, in fact, Swinney praised his spring performance.
Because of the inexperience at the quarterback position, it is understandable why Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris chose to put the candidates in as many game-like situations as possible. However, I question whether the risk outweighs the reward. Watson, for instance, graduated high school in December and could use six months in a college weight lifting program to add bulk to his sinewy 6’2”, 190 pound frame before taking hits from the likes of Stephone Anthony and Vic Beasley. Moreover, Chad Kelly tore his ACL in the spring game a year ago.
Injuries are an inevitable part of football, and the loss of your best quarterback can derail a season. It’s prudent to limit the number of injuries one has in practice because you control those to some degree. I’d prefer to start the guy who looks best without contact than be stuck with the last man standing. Perhaps Swinney should have borrowed a broom.