Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) has been committed to Clemson for over a year, since signing day in February 2012. But that has not stopped other programs from recruiting the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the ESPN 150, even though he said last month he was done with recruiting.
Mike Bobo and Cam Cameron, offensive coordinators from Georgia and LSU, respectively, visited Gainesville to watch Watson, ESPN's 13th-rated prospect, during spring practice. Alabama offered Watson after Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier evaluated him earlier this month. With his status as an elite quarterback talent, none of that was earth-shattering news.
This past weekend, though, things got a little interesting. With Auburn hosting its annual recruiting event known as "Big Cat Weekend," Twitter reports emerged that Watson was in Auburn. Watson tweeted Friday evening that he was not at Auburn.
He later denied to various reporters his presence on the Plains, as did his head coach, Bruce Miller. But on Tuesday evening, Miller had a different story for ESPN.
“We have been out of school since May 18, so I gave our kids the time off before we start back at workouts this morning,” Miller said. “I did not have any contact with him last week. I get a call Friday night from Coach [Chad] Morris at Clemson Friday evening asking if I knew anything about Deshaun visiting Auburn [that day]. I told him I had no idea about it and I started investigating. He calls me back later saying his source was pretty good on him being at Auburn. Of course, Deshaun had denied it so I denied it too.”
Watson was denying it, but in fact he had made a trip to the SEC campus Thursday afternoon with an assistant coach, which Miller said was done without his knowledge. According to Miller, Watson mentioned to one of his assistant coaches that Auburn had been in contact and he had interest in visiting. The assistant was attending a graduation in Prattville, Ala., about an hour away from Auburn, over the weekend, so he dropped off Watson. Miller said Watson acknowledged the visit to him at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“Deshaun told me he visited Auburn and that he did not know what he was thinking,” Miller said. “Deshaun felt sorry about it and said he got talked into it at a weak moment because he had never seen it. He said he realized after he got there that he should not have made the visit. He said, 'I then started trying to figure out how I could cover it up.'”
ESPN 150 commits denying visiting other schools is nothing new. Last January Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett) visited Tennessee just a few weeks after committing to Ohio State at the Under Armour All-America Game. Johnson denied it during the weekend of the visit, but it was later revealed he was in Knoxville checking out the Volunteers. In the end, he signed with the Buckeyes, though. 2013 ESPN 150 defensive end Chris Jones denied multiple visits to Ole Miss last January while being committed to Mississippi State, later admitting he made the visits but was afraid to say anything because of death threats.
While those “secret visits” were a few weeks before signing day, Watson’s trip is unique because there are more than seven months before he can enroll early at the college of his choice.
Like Johnson and Jones, it appears Watson is solid in his commitment at the moment. He was able to talk to the Tigers’ coaching staff on Tuesday in hopes of getting back on the same page.
“Deshaun says he did not see anything [at Auburn] that makes me question anything and he is not changing his commitment,” Miller said. “He talked to Dabo Swinney and Chad Morris today and everything is fine now. They told him No. 1 is that Deshaun’s word is his word and that he will need to earn back a little bit of their trust. When you mess up one time you have to circle back and do right again, which Deshaun will have no problem with.”
Miller said ha will take a more hands-on approach to keeping up with his prize quarterback, who set the state record for career passing yards last fall while leading the Red Elephants to their first state title.
“From now on our recruiting coach, Wayne Jones, and I will be handling his recruitment,” Miller said. “I think he and all of us have learned our lesson in social media, and I do not think Deshaun Watson will take any more visits.”