North Carolina Tar Heels: Beware Deshaun Watson


The North Carolina Tar Heels’ have a better defense this year. Do they have an answer for the scrambling of Deshaun Watson?

The North Carolina Tar Heels will head into their matchup tonight against the Clemson Tigers with an improved defense. If you looked at the history of the improved Tar Heel defense, you would think that the biggest threat to it would be Clemson tailback Wayne Gallman. You would be wrong. The key player on the Clemson offense against the Heels is Deshaun Watson, the quarterback.

You can be forgiven for thinking Gallman was the real threat. After all the Tar heel defense has given big games to running backs of all stripes. They just have kept them out of the end zone for the most part. Thomas Jefferson of Delaware, Josh Ferguson of Illinois, Taquan Mizzell of Virginia, and Jela Duncan of Duke all had a hundred yards against the Heels. Those teams never could exploit though because they were chasing huge margins.

Stopping Gallman is straight forward. Yet the one player Clemson has that there is no real scheme for is Watson. Watson shredded some of these same defensive backs a year ago. Hopefully an improved Tar Heel pass rush can help that out, but even Watson’s gaudy passing abilities are not the reason he is the key to this game.

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If everything breaks down, Watson can run. He can run better than Jacoby Brissett can, and Brissett found room on designed runs and breakdowns just last week. There would be no excuse for Clemson not to have that NC State tape to look at. If not, they can go back to the South Carolina tape when the Gamecocks used Pharoh Cooper as a wildcat runner.

Watson’s running is not Vince Young running, true, but it can be just as effective. All it needs to do is keep Clemson on the field. This game is more likely to be a shootout than it is to be a grinding affair. In shootout football, you might only need one stop to win. Watson gives Clemson that extra dimension to prevent Clemson from being stopped.

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The Tar Heels might try to spy Watson, but it will come down to disciplined defense. The defensive ends will have to keep him in the pocket, and tacklers cannot blow tackles on him.

Kickoff is only five hours away.