Football

Clemson’s Deshaun Watson calls relationship with Panthers’ Cam Newton ‘very close’

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who spoke Friday at ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, said he enjoys a “very close” relationship with Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who spoke Friday at ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, said he enjoys a “very close” relationship with Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson admittedly are friends.

“Me and Cam are very close,” Watson told reporters Friday at the ACC Football Kickoff.

The two met at one of Newton’s passing camps when Watson was in high school. In the four years since, they’ve continued exchanging text messages and phone calls.

But that might stop on Sep. 3, when Watson and the Tigers travel to Auburn, Newton’s alma mater, for their season opener. Even Watson acknowledged he might not have his friend’s support for the game.

“Why not go for your own university?” Watson said of Newton.

More from Friday’s media event at The Westin in Charlotte:

Clemson

• Watson was impressive last season in guiding Clemson to the national championship, but he might be even better as a junior. He’ll enter the season as a Heisman Trophy favorite a year after finishing third for the award, given to college football’s best player. No Clemson player has ever won the Heisman.

• The Tigers expect to return receiver Mike Williams, who missed nearly all of 2015 after totaling 1,030 yards and six touchdowns in 2014. On Clemson’s first drive last season against Wofford, Williams ran into the goal post trying to catch a pass in the endzone and fractured his neck.

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson players Deshaun Watson and Ben Boulware speak at Friday's ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin.

Louisville

• Quarterback Lamar Jackson said one of the biggest things he’s worked on this offseason is his media savvy. “I’ve been having a lot of training for my interviews,” he told reporters. “How am I doing?” Jackson led the Cardinals in passing and rushing last season.

• Louisville’s trio of senior linebackers – Keith Kelsey, Trevon Young and Devonte Fields – should be one of the nation’s best. Fields had 11 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season, his first with the Cardinals after transferring from Trinity Valley Community College (Texas) and TCU.

N.C. State

• Five ACC schools – North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Louisville – plus Notre Dame, which plays five ACC schools each season, could start the season ranked in the Top 25 nationally. N.C. State is the only ACC school scheduled to play all of them.

•  The Wolfpack will play its 50th season at Carter-Finley Stadum. Already, N.C. State has set a school record for season tickets and has sold out of season tickets faster than almost every other school in the country. “The home field advantage is real at Carter-Finley,” coach Dave Doeren said.

N.C. State head football coach Dave Doeren and players Matthew Dayes and Jack Tocho speak at Friday's ACC Football Kickoff at the Westin.

Syracuse

• Syracuse’s Dino Babers is the only new coach in the Atlantic Division this season. Babers, who spent the past two years at Bowling Green, is known for his uptempo offense and high scoring.

• The Orange’s defensive representative was Zaire Franklin, a junior linebacker. He was named a captain last season as a true sophomore, and then made a team-high 81 tackles. “To be given that type of honor and be considered one of the leaders on the team, it meant a great deal to me,” he said. “But just because you get a ‘C’ on your chest doesn’t necessarily change who you should be.”

Wake Forest

• Tight end Cam Serigne wasn’t Wake Forest’s offensive representative to the Kickoff, but he was their most talked about player. “He now looks like a tight end,” coach Dave Clawson said, “not just athletically but physically.” A 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior, Serigne had 562 yards and four touchdowns last season.

• Clawson is known as a program rebuilder. He’s inherited losing programs at Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green, but over time produced double-digit win seasons at each school.

Boston College

• Coach Steve Addazio was Friday’s most energetic speaker. He introduced players Myles Willis and Matt Milano and gave the longest opening remarks of any coach.

• Milano, a linebacker, anchors a defense that has finished No. 2 nationally against the run each of the past two seasons. Addazio was gracious in praising his defensive representative. “He can run with the fastest wide receivers,” Addazio said. “He’s one of the finest players in the ACC.”

Florida State

• Other than Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook was the biggest attraction. Cook, who won the 2015 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back, ran for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. He enters his junior season as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The Seminoles are the only team in the ACC that returns all 11 offensive starters.

• Cook was soft-spoken on stage, but defensive end Demarcus Walker said the running back was only using his ‘inside voice.’ “Dalvin talks when he wants to,” Walker said.

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5337, @brendanrmarks

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