Watching one of the best

CLEMSON - With an eye on improving his game, there's a certain someone in the NFL that Josh Watson has been watching.

Justin Smith of the 49ers is one of the most respected defensive tackles in the league. He's one of the best, too.

"It's almost like he was coached by coach [Dan] Brooks. The way he's gap sound," Watson said. "To emulate him, watching him is just a pleasure."

Smith, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, was an All Pro in 2011. A former first-round draft pick by the Bengals, Smith has 788 tackles 75.5 sacks in 12 NFL seasons.

Not a bad guy for Watson to study during the offseason.

A redshirt junior, Watson put together a productive season last fall. In 461 snaps, he recorded 53 tackles and three sacks. He started nine games.

This spring, he's up to 300 pounds. That's about 15 pounds more than he played at during the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"I'm carrying it pretty well, still getting a little adjusted to it," Watson said. "When you put on 15 pounds, you've got to get adjusted to it. It's almost like wearing a weight vest or something out here. I'm getting conditioned to it."

Credit, he said, goes to strength and conditioning coach Joey Batson.

"He did a good job of conditioning us a lot earlier than he did last year," Watson said. "He stepped it up with his conditioning and the strength game. It's starting to show out here."

The elder statesman along the defensive line, Watson, 23, is one of the oldest players on the team. He hopes to impart some of his wisdom upon his younger teammates.

"I'm just trying to bring the younger guys along, teach them how to take care of their body," Watson said. "Sometimes, physically, drag them into the cold tub, telling them it's better to do it earlier in your career, so you don't have as many aches and pains as I do or some of the older guys that didn't get into the cold tubs early in their career. Just help them out like that, like [a] big brother.

"I also talk to Scott [Pagano], the big Hawaiian, giving him advice so he can come in and help us out as well."

It's a professional approach that Watson is taking. Yet another page that he's taken out of Smith's well-written book. Top Stories