The first completion of Deshaun Watson ‘s college career was a 29-yard toss to Mike Williams early in the second quarter of the 2014 season-opener against Georgia Bulldogs . Williams, then a sophomore, was on getting started on a breakout season that would finish with 1,000 receiving yards and plenty of attention of NFL scouts.
Watson’s true breakout year came in his sophomore season as well, but as his star rose, Williams had to support the signal caller from the sideline during the Tigers’ incredible run to the College Football Playoff National Championship.
On the first offensive drive of that 2015 campaign, Williams pulled in a touchdown pass from Watson in the back of the end zone and ran head-first into the goalpost, suffering a fractured bone in his neck that forced him to miss the rest of the season.
“It killed me to not be able to play,” Williams said before the 2016 season. “After I got hurt, I was kind of sad. I really did not want to leave my house or do anything. Wearing the neck brace didn’t make it easier because everyone could tell who I was in public.”
Williams had plans to take his game to the NFL after a successful 2015, but those plans were put on hold because of the injury. Now as a senior, he joins Watson in what is likely his last season with the program to make the most dangerous quarterback-wide receiver duo in college football.
It took about a quarter to get going, but once the Watson-to-Williams connection was rolling there was no perceivable way for Auburn Tigers to stop the Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback from getting the ball to his 6-foot-4, future pro wideout.
“After the first quarter they came to the sideline and said, ‘We’re about to get you the ball,'” Williams told reporters after the 19-13 win. “Second quarter [they] did it and everything started flowing real good.”
Williams finished the day with nine catches and a career-high 174 receiving yards, helping Clemson Tigers snap a seven-game losing streak at Auburn that dated back to the mid-20th century. Swinney regretted the “very poor decision” Clemson made in the low-scoring struggle, even offering a suggestion that Williams could have performed even better in his 2016 debut.
It will be tough for Watson to match his season total numbers from a year ago (more than 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards, the first player in FBS history to do both in a single season), even with Williams back from injury. The duo’s threat to opposing defenses might have as much of an impact as the actual production, considering the unique talent of both players. The good news for ACC defensive coordinators, and the bad news for us, is that the clock is ticking down on the opportunities to watch the Watson-to-Williams connection, the most dangerous QB-WR duo in college football.
Here are a few others that could give Watson-Williams a run for their money.
1. Washington State Cougars ‘s Luke Falk and Gabe Marks : Falk, currently one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the game, ended up on the wrong end of an FCS opening weekend takedown in the 45-42 loss to Eastern Washington on Saturday. The loss sets the Cougars off on a wrong foot in 2016, but it was not for a lack of production from Falk (41-for-51 passing, 418 yards, four touchdowns, one interception) and Marks (10 catches, 108 yards, two touchdowns).
2. Ole Miss Rebels ‘ Chad Kelly and Quincy Adeboyejo : As the top returning receiver with 38 catches and seven touchdowns in 2015, Adeboyejo is set to see his workload increase with reigning SEC passing champion Chad Kelly. The Rebels play Monday night.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes ‘s J.T. Barrett and [insert skill player]: Barrett’s seven-touchdown day against Bowling Green featured 22 touches (13 carries, nine receptions) for Curtis Samuel . Now Samuel might be able to be replaced by another player each week given the depth and talent at the skill positions in Columbus, but as the recipient of 177 receiving yards he gets the gold star. Next week it could be Samuel or Noah Brown or Dontre Wilson or any of the other hybrid, hyper-athletic talents could end up stacking the stats on Saturdays.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish ‘s DeShone Kizer and Equanimeous St. Brown : This is a late addition to the group after seeing two things on Sunday night in the double-overtime loss at Texas Longhorns . First, Kizer is not only the best quarterback on Notre Dame’s roster, but he should be the only quarterback playing on standard downs and passing downs. Malik Zaire may have a place in the offense, but Kizer is QB1 in South Bend.
Second, St. Brown is going to be a problem for opposing defenses in 2016. His acrobatic touchdown was sick, but the 6-foot-5 wide receiver showed the ability to do so much more in his five catch, 75-yard, two touchdown performance. Will Fuller and Chris Brown were among the NFL Irish on the sideline in Austin, getting the best seat to watch one of the program’s next future pros at wide receiver.
Source: CBS Sports / Best quarterback-receiver duos: Clemson’s Watson, Williams making up for lost time