Watson progressing... will he play?

Head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris certainly painted an interesting picture Thursday.

Morris, talking to reporters earlier this morning at the West End Zone, indicated freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson practiced yesterday and actually performed quite well.

Meanwhile Swinney, talking to the same group of reporters later in the afternoon, said, "I don't think anything is off the table" in regards to when Watson could see the field again.

Watson, who broke a bone in the index finger of his throwing hand in the first half of Clemson's 23-17 win over Louisville Oct. 11, was expected to return to action as soon as the Georgia Tech game on Nov. 15. However based on what Morris and Swinney had to say this morning, it's clear he could return as soon as next Thursday's game against Wake Forest.

The question is, should he?

Will he be 100 percent less than a month removed from having four screws into that injured finger? And if he's not 100 percent, what percentage would he need to be at to see the field?

Furthermore, does Clemson need Watson on the field to beat a Wake Forest team that is struggling mightily under first-year head coach Dave Clawson?

These are all questions Clemson fans are pondering entering this weekend's open date, and with good reason.

It's obvious in Watson's absence the identity of the football program has changed. The staff has game planned more around its defense, being more conservative with down field throws while trying to play win games in lower-scoring, slug-fest type fashion.

It would be great to get him back so soon as the offense would likely rally around his return and benefit greatly as a result.

It could also set the stage for a strong run in the month of November, with the star quarterback back in the saddle just in time for a dangerous road trip to Atlanta, and of course, the season finale against South Carolina.

And it certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Clemson may need Watson's skill set to have the best opportunity to beat those two teams. Both the Yellow Jackets and Gamecocks, while questionable defensively, have two explosive offenses, ranking 24th and 31st in the country respectively entering November.

Getting Watson back for the Wake Forest game, in any capacity, would allow him to shake off the rust of sitting on the bench the last three games and perhaps pave an easier path for a strong end-of-season run.

Then again, do you really want to risk Watson re-injuring his throwing hand if he's not 100 percent? Do you really need him against a team that has been blown out with regularity this year? Why risk it?

While fans will debate these options extensively during the next week, the reality of the situation is that it comes down to what the team doctors say. If he's healthy enough to play, and if Watson feels confident in his ability after practicing all week, then he should see the field against the Deacons.

If not, then he'll wait until the next week at Georgia Tech.

Judging by what the coaches said earlier today, it sounds like Watson is ahead of the curve in his recovery and assuming there are no setbacks, I think there's a reasonable chance he plays against Wake Forest.

I'm fine with that and I think you should be too.

He's the player that makes this offense go. He's never missed a start in his football career prior to these last two games so he's hungry to get back on the field. No offense to Cole Stoudt, but it's obvious this late in the season Clemson is a much more explosive team with him leading the charge.

And as indicated above, that explosiveness will be needed to win these final four games.

As long as the doctors give him the "ok," it's more than "ok" with me.

Stay tuned.

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