Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, tailback Wayne Gallman and receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are heading to the NFL after this season.
Coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday that the four juniors are graduating in December and have informed him this would be their last college season. The group will be honored at Senior Day on Saturday when the third-ranked Tigers (9-0, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) host Pitt.
“All those guys are planning on moving on,” Swinney said. “Definitely want to honor them while we have an opportunity to do it. They’ve earned that.”
The group has been essential in Clemson’s rise into a national championship contender.
Watson became the first player in the Football Bowl Subdivision to throw for 4,000 yards and run for 1,000 yards last season as the Tigers won an ACC title, were ranked No. 1 in the country and reached the national championship game where they lost to Alabama.
Gallman set the school’s single-season rushing mark with 1,527 yards. He has run 634 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
Williams was a 1,000-yard receiver in 2014 but missed last season with a serious neck injury. He leads the Tigers in receiving this year with 52 catches for 754 yards and five touchdowns.
Scott led Clemson in catches the past two seasons with 76 as a freshman in 2014 and 93 the next year. He is second on the team this season in receptions with 38 for 329 yards and three scores.
The four have kept the Tigers’ offense humming along this season, although not at the levels of last fall. Clemson is fourth in the ACC in total offense and third in scoring per game.
Swinney said the juniors will take part in solo runs down Clemson’s hill into Memorial Stadium as is the practice for seniors.
“They’re more seniors to me than some of the seniors,” Swinney said of his junior stars. “We try and honor the guys whose intentions are they’re not going to be back.”
Swinney said his players are ready for the next level. He said Watson and Scott, roommates since coming to Clmeson, told him before the season they planned to graduate in December and leave the program after their junior years.
Watson, an AP All-American last year, has completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,497 yards and 24 touchdowns through nine games. He has also rushed for 370 yards and two scores.
A Heisman Trophy candidate, Watson is expected to be among the first quarterbacks taken in next year’s NFL draft.
Watson said last January after Clemson returned from the national title game in Arizona that if he finished his work to graduate in December, he would look to fulfill the NFL dreams he has held since he was a boy.
Williams, at 6-3, is also considered a first-rounder. Gallman, a fourth-year junior, was eligible to go pro last year but chose to return. He and Scott are also expected to be drafted.