BUFORD, Georgia -- After the Dallas Elite 11 camp failed to produce an invite to the final last weekend, the Atlanta camp had better luck Friday. The camp managed to produce an invite to the Elite 11 finals and The Opening without the instructors needing to see extra work at the Atlanta NFTC on Saturday, as Gainesville (Ga.) pro-style quarterback prospect Deshaun Watson was named the overall MVP and earned the second invite overall for the Elite 11 finals.
Watson, a consensus four-star prospect who is committed to Clemson and ranks as one of the top pro-style prospects in the country, will join Norman (Ok.). North pro-style quarterback David Cornwell in the finals. Cornwell was impressive last Saturday at the Dallas Elite 11 camp, but did not earn an invite until after he threw against live competition in Sunday's Dallas NFTC.
Watson, rated as one of the top quarterbacks in the country by pretty much every scout who has laid eyes on him, was impressive. In windy conditions, he zipped balls all over the field. He was particularly good with intermediate throws. And as he leans to implement his core to a greater degree, hie deep balls will be even better. Watson's athleticism, readily seen on his highlight tape, showed up with good footwork. He's also a bright, thoughtful kid who impressed the instructors with his knowledge.
Camps, even one with the prestige of the Elite 11, are not a smart way to judge a player. But they are a very useful tool by which observations made about a player's film can be confirmed. And Watson again confirmed that his arm and feet are excellent on Friday evening.
I spoke with Watson, a Clemson commitment, about what the award meant to him, his experience at the Elite 11, and his recruitment.
On the Elite 11 experience and the invite to Oregon:
"It was great to compete against the best. You have to fight through the noise and stay focused. I always want to play against the best, and now I get my chance to do that."
What did Watson learn from the Elite 11 instructors that he'll take home and practice?
"They worked with me on being under center, and getting the depth on my drops. And they showed me how to put my core into the throw."
Does Watson have any new college offers?
"No, pretty much everyone who wants me has offered. They all still call."
Who, other than Clemson, is recruiting Watson the hardest?
"Ohio State, Oregon, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia."
How does all the attention from other schools impact Watson's commitment to the Clemson Tigers?
"Not at all. I'm 100% committed to Clemson."
How much of his commitment to Clemson is tied to star offensive coordinator Chad Morris?
"A lot. Coach Morris has been on me since Day 1, but so has coach [Dabo] Swinney. I just love Clemson; the school, the campus, the people."
Most of the schools recruiting Watson run the spread with a heavy dose of the QB running game. Is that where he best sees his game fitting?
"Definitely. I use my arm and my legs to keep the defense honest. But I'll also take snaps under center at Clemson, like 15 per game, and the rest from the shotgun."
How much does the NFL's recent shift to mobile quarterbacks influence his decision to play in the spread?
"A lot. I love the spread. NFL teams are building their offense around the quarterback, and that's what I want."
Watson does not have any visits planned at the moment, but says he will see Clemson again this summer.