The new and improved No. 91

CLEMSON - To this day, the thought still makes Josh Watson chuckle. He just can't help wonder what defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks was thinking.

"When I look back at it, I still don't know how coach Brooks recruited me," Watson said, during preseason camp earlier this month.

"My technique was so bad back then. It was definitely opposite of how the game is supposed to be played at d-tackle."

There was a slight adjustment period before he would come anywhere close to a spot on the two-deep depth chart. Because it may have taken a little longer than he had initially hoped, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound redshirt sophomore is grateful for the "shot" Clemson took on him.

"I'm forever indebted to them," he said.

A little over a week away from the season opener in the Georgia Dome, it appears that Watson has already started to pay the Clemson coaches back. He sits among the top three players in the defensive tackle rotation.

"I'm glad I could come around this year and actually provide for the team, and they can count on me to make plays," he said.

And there's one big reason why Watson has been able to etch out a spot for himself on the depth chart.

"Confidence," he said, "For sure, confidence. Before, I used to get down on myself."

Now, Watson is making sure that the young defensive tackles like Carlos Watkins and D.J. Reader know it's OK when they make a mistake. He just reminds them to trust their technique.

That cures all ills.

"When you're messing up all the time it's not fun. You start getting down on yourself," Watson said. "That's why I help out the young guys right now when they get down on themselves and coach Brooks gets all up in them.

"I'm like, ‘No, don't worry about it. Keep working your technique. The plays are going to come to you. Don't get down on yourself.'

"That's kind of the approach I took. I took the approach of, the ball's not going to run through my gap this year. I'm going to know my assignment and the team can count on me. The linebacker can count on me that those guards aren't going to knock them in the head. I let them run around make the plays. I do all the dirty work."

Watson, who spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy to up his stock with BCS schools, took a redshirt his first season at Clemson. In 2011, he logged 21 snaps over five games and didn't record a tackle.

The proverbial light came on this past spring.

"[Brent Venables] was a brand new coordinator, a brand new system, everybody was on the same playing field, and Rennie [Moore] and Brandon [Thompson] were gone," Watson said. "That's when I had to really hone my technique that coach Brooks has been teaching me, and I did.

"Everything started clicking. I started making plays because I had the right assignment, making the right reads. It just became fun to me again. Football wasn't fun to me when I wasn't doing well."

Now, he's having a great time.

"This is probably best team I've been a part of in my whole career, even back in little league when I was winning championships all the time, going undefeated," Watson said.

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