Fresh off a Vince Young-like performance in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game that ended on a sour note, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is not done.
Not even close.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 73 yards, and put up more yards against Alabama's defense himself than any other team did all year in the 45-40 loss on Monday night in Glendale, Arizona.
"Being able to improve on what we did this year with a lot more veterans, we have a chance to be one of the best offenses ever in college football," Watson said while accepting the 2015 Manning Award given to the nation's top quarterback.
"That's our motivation. To be the best ever."
A lofty goal, sure. But based on how they closed the season, even a small step forward might put the Tigers in the thick of that discussion.
They are currently on an 11-game streak in which the offense totaled more than 500 yards. The last time they fell under the 500-yard mark was at home in the 24-22 win over Notre Dame in a monsoon in Death Valley.
To put that in proper perspective, only 15 teams averaged 500 or more yards per game this year—nine of which were in Power Five conferences.
Clemson closed hot, and the loss to Alabama has Watson hungrier than ever.
"Even if we would have won the game and finished 15-0 and made history, it would still be the drive to achieve it again," he said. "We have to learn from the game. Everyone is very confident that we can play with the best. We went toe-to-toe with them to the last play, and it came down to that onside kick. We have a lot of confidence in this program, and Coach [Dabo] Swinney has been doing a great job over the last several years getting ready for moments like that, and we're going to come back stronger."
"I'm going to go back and watch the games from this year and fix the interceptions that I threw," he said. "Some throws I overthrew because I was kind of rushed, trusting my footwork and the guys around you. Little things like that...my mechanics, making sure I'm real polished with that. Reading defenses. I think I do a really good job of reading defenses, but I want to get better."
The core of the Tigers offense will be back in 2016, including stud receiver Artavis Scott and fellow receiver Mike Williams, who missed virtually the entire season after suffering a neck injury in the season opener. On top of that, the young offensive line—which was a question mark coming into the season—should be even better than it was in 2015, when it gave up just 1.2 sacks per game.
Wayne Gallman, who racked up 1,527 yards and 13 touchdowns, announced this week he will pass up the chance to declare for the NFL draft to return to Clemson in hopes of making another title-game run.
"It was great to hear that Wayne wanted to come back, graduate and take one more ride with us," Watson said. "It's going to be a special year. I feel like he's one of the best running backs in the country, and he has proven that."
Watson's return and the experience of the offense have set the goals awfully high in Clemson following the ACC title and appearance in the national championship.
The best offense ever?
Bold, but not impossible.
Just take it from Watson: "Next year is going to be very special."
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Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.
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