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Local fans express optimism in Deshaun Watson's chances to find stride
AP 16261692801269
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson drops back to pass while pressured by South Carolina State's Dayshawn Taylor with blocking help from Wayne Gallmanduring the first half of an NCAA college football game on Saturday in Clemson, S.C. - photo by Richard Shiro

It’s not how you start, but how you finish.

If there is a time for Gainesville graduate Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers to turn things around, tonight may be the night to do it.

With Watson coming home to Atlanta for tonight’s ACC showdown with the 3-0 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, local fans to include former Athletic Director and longtime coach Wayne Vickery will be watching closely to see if their hometown star and the No. 5 nationally ranked Tigers can return to full form.

And to the critics, the Tigers have been anything but stellar for the first three games, exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviors — dropped passes, inconsistent run game, sluggish performances — in wins over unranked opponents. The Tigers escaped with a 19-13 win over Auburn, then fell three slots in the National Polls following an unconvincing four-point win over Troy.
Watson (58 for 102, 692 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT), this year’s top Heisman Trophy candidate heading into the season, admitted to feeling the weight of that pressure and apologized for the negative energy during a news conference at Clemson University’s practice facility on Sept. 12.

“You gotta remember, Deshaun has a big-ol bullseye on his back. Everybody’s gunning for him. You stop Deshaun Watson, you gotta good chance of winning,” said Vickery, who coached at Gainesville High School for 37 years.

Vickery is confident Watson will turn things around against Georgia Tech. This will be Vickery’s first time watching Clemson live since making the long trip to Glendale, Az. for the BCS title game in January.

“It ain’t how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Vickery. “You know, there’s nine more games left in the season and I think there’s plenty of time to show that Clemson is for real. I think their running game is great. I think his receivers — to be honest with you — are better this year than they were last year.”

Tim Watson, Deshaun Watson’s uncle, won’t be making the trip to Atlanta for tonight’s game, though had the opportunity to attend the first two games with other members of the Watson family. Deshaun’s mother Deann and his siblings will be in attendance Thursday night.

“They just gotta get into a rhythm again, a long offseason and all of that,” Tim Watson said. “Deshaun has been busy over the summer with a lot of stuff. But I think they’ll bounce back pretty good.”

Vickery is not selling Georgia Tech short either. He expects Bobby Dodd Stadium to be a hostile environment. He also wouldn’t be surprised if 40-50 percent of the Tiger fanbase make the long trip from Clemson.

“Tech’s playing at home, and you know, the triple-option’s hard to defend,” he added. “I know Clemson beat them bad last year, but I wouldn’t be surprised, they’re in for a dog fight tomorrow. I think they’ll (Clemson) win, but I think they’re in for a dog fight and Georgia Tech’s 3-0 too. They got a little momentum going too.”