The days of him shooting gaps with a reckless abandon and no technique were over.
Defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks was sure to clean that up real quick.
"On my first play in spring ball, I ‘ole-ed' a guy—that's what coach calls it. I went around [the blocker] to make the play. I was excited. I thought, ‘I could do this,'" Watson said. "I look over at my coach and he's yelling."
Just like that, everything he'd been doing on the field began to change.
"I wasn't playing the position right when I came here," Watson said. "I was playing it like a playmaker. I was just shooting gaps, and I was just making tackles in the backfield, because that's what my team needed me to do.
"Here, it's more of a scheme. We've got linebackers that are depending on us to do a job, so they can do their job, so the db's can do their job…I'm starting to learn it and fit into it."
Watson took the prep school route before coming to Clemson last January. Fully qualified out of John Dickinson High School in Wilmington, Del., but with no Division I offers, he enrolled at Hargrave Military Academy to up his stock with big-time college coaches.
With offers from Boston College, Duke, Florida State and North Carolina, he signed with Clemson.
He knew it would be almost impossible to play for the Tigers as a freshman.
"It was definitely worth redshirting. I'm glad I did it," he said. "A lot of players told me that redshirting is the best thing that can happen to you that's the best thing that's ever happened to me too. Of course, you don't want to come in and redshirt. Everybody wants to play and be on the big stage, but sitting out here watching, getting my technique better, learning from the older guys, it's going to benefit me."
Watson used his first full year at Clemson to add some weight. He's now up to 280.
"I wasn't really worried about it. I've built a great relationship with the strength coach," he said. "We got in there and got after it. I've gained about 10 to 12 pounds. That was definitely beneficial."
An additional eight pounds in the coming months before spring practice would be ideal.
"[If] doing it right, eating right, lifting a lot of weights. I'm getting stronger every week," Watson said. "That's exciting to see. And it's definitely paying off on the field."
With the departures of Jarvis Jenkins and Miguel Chavis, there's plenty of room left behind in the two-deep defensive tackle rotation.
"I've got Rennie Moore in front of me right now. There's Tyler Shatley, who is also coming along, he's doing real good. I've still got guys to learn from," Watson said.
It was Moore who took Watson under his wing nearly a year ago.
"Rennie, he's been teaching me ever since I got here, on day one. My hands, he's got my hands better. My feet, my hips—stuff like that. I get to learn from him again for another year," Watson said. "Also, Brandon Thompson, he's just a monster. He just knows how to do it, knows how to get it done."
Watson ready to make a move
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