Sean White and Deshaun Watson don’t know each other that well personally. But they’ve always been connected.
In 2013, they were both among the Elite 11 quarterbacks named at The Opening in Beaverton, Ore. Watson, who committed to Clemson in 2012, made a then-“secret” recruiting visit to Auburn in May of 2013. White made his first visit to the school on the Plains five months later, then signed with Auburn the following February.
“It wasn’t any secret. It was something where I wanted to make sure I was making the right choice,” Watson told reporters of that visit on Monday, according to TigerNet.com. “It was my decision. I don’t have to tell the world where I am going or what I am allowed to do. If I want to do something, then I can go ahead and do it.
“I enjoyed the visit. Auburn is a nice place. Gus (Malzahn) and the whole coaching staff was awesome. I had a great weekend, but I felt comfortable being at Clemson.”
On Saturday, Watson will make a far less secret trip to Auburn, where he and White will meet again on the football field for the first time since they were some of the most sought-after recruits in the nation three years ago.
And while one of those two signal-callers comes in with a decidedly higher pedigree than the other — Watson was the third-place finisher in the Heisman voting last year; White threw one touchdown in seven games — Auburn’s quarterback was once four-star prospect just like Clemson’s was.
“I'm not surprised they named White the starter because I thought he played really well for them at times last year,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said on a conference call. “You don't make that decision when they did without being confident in him. He's a highly recruited guy that has been named the starting quarterback at Auburn. That doesn't happen by luck. He's a guy that is capable of taking this team and winning this game."
When the two first crossed paths on the football field in Oregon, it was White who was the winner, being named the MVP of the Elite 11 in 2013.
On Saturday, White will hope to make it 2-for-2.
“They’re a really good team. They made it to the national championship, obviously. They have a great quarterback. I know him well and have a lot of respect for him,” White said. “They’re going to be a challenge, but we’re going to work hard and be ready for it.”