South Carolina linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams had his shot at a Heisman Trophy finalist.
No, it wasn’t last year, when the Gamecocks junior hardly played against Clemson, but the year before. That was when Deshaun Watson was just a high-rated recruit who was tearing things up between injuries.
“I remember I had a killshot on Deshaun and he just stepped back and juked me,” Allen-Williams said. “This was the game he just tore his ACL.”
They knew each other from high school, and Allen-Williams knows well the challenge awaiting the Gamecocks on Saturday. Wayne Gallman is a good back, and the rest of the Tigers attack has plenty of firepower.
Controlling that group should be key to exactly how competitive the Gamecocks can be in their upset bid of a top-5 team. But in addition to being a dynamic athlete who can make pin-point throws, Watson is at a high level with his understanding of the game.
“He knows what you’re running on defense before you come out in it,” Allen-Williams said. “so we’ve got to do a good job of disguising some things and bringing pressure from a couple of different areas to try to kind of rattle him, because he hasn’t really (been) rattled this year.”
The Gamecocks struggled mightily last week to contain Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams at spots, giving up two third downs and a second-and-long when he broke out and had a lot of space.
In two games against the Gamecocks, Watson ran for 131 yards and two scores last season, and two touchdowns with only 13 yards in 2014 (when he came in hurt).
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp pointed out there’s a distinction with scrambles that are pass plays and about pass defense, but at times, Clemson will also throw the offense on Watson’s shoulders with designed runs.
“It’s always a factor because Deshaun makes their offense go,” defensive end Marquavius Lewis said. “So we intend on containing them.”
Non-confrontational? Not here
Muschamp’s public persona has never been one of a man with a reserved nature. He’ll let folks know what he thinks on the sideline, and behind the scenes, he and his staff don’t sugarcoat things.
He calls it “confrontational coaching” and believes the honesty is refreshing for players. They don’t seem to mind.
“He doesn’t let anything slide,” tight end Hayden Hurst said. “There’s no walking around. If he sees a problem, he does not feel afraid to address it with anybody, no matter who it is on the team, he’ll let you know if you’re messing up or doing anything not up to par.”
This is from a coach who called out his top running back directly at the start of fall camp and called out his top cover corner on numerous occasions.
Some might think that could cause issues. But Muschamp said it’s made clear this is about a player’s improvement, even if some egos might be bruised.
“When you make a mistake in front of 80,000 people, it’s not fun either,” Muschamp said.