When Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris announced last month that freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson would play in the Tigers' season-opening game at Georgia, Bruce Miller may have been the least-surprised person in the country.
"Not surprised at all," said Miller, who coached Watson at Gainesville (Ga.) High. "He's the best one I've ever seen."
That's a bold contention coming from a veteran coach who will kick off his 41st season Friday and has witnessed players such as Blake Sims and A.J. Johnson come through his program.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney discusses the benefit of blaring the opposing fight song during practice.
Sims will start at quarterback for Alabama on Saturday when the Crimson Tide plays West Virginia. Johnson is a consensus preseason All-American who starts at linebacker for Tennessee.
But Watson, he says, is without peer.
"I've seen him do things in games and I'd think to myself, 'I'm just glad he's on my team,' " Miller said.
He's no longer on Miller's team – "I lost 17,000 yards of total offense," Miller laments – but the venerable coach said he's thankful that he'll be able to watch Watson showcase his skills at Clemson for at least the next few years.
Shane Davis, the head coach at rival Apalachee High in Winder, Georgia, also probably feels good that he'll be able to watch Watson from afar for a change.
Watson was 24-for-29 for 372 yards with four touchdowns in Gainesville's 49-6 win against Apalachee last season.
"Athletically, he is the best I have ever seen," Davis said. "I have had the opportunity to coach some great players. The best is probably Tony Taylor, who played linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons for a while. I had the opportunity to see Takeo Spikes play while he was at Washington County. I thought he was the best high school football player that I had ever seen. That was until Deshaun Watson."
Watson enters the season as Clemson's back-up behind fifth-year senior Cole Stoudt. He impressed coaches this spring, during the summer and again in fall camp, earning the right to take snaps Saturday evening near his home turf.
"He was that good," Morris said. "He wasn't going to redshirt. That was the consensus from the get-go and that was the consensus after watching him the first couple of practices in the spring. We knew that he was going to be special.