SUNSET — Yes, Brandon Streeter has taken a moment — a few, actually — to reflect on his good fortune. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t.
This time last year, Streeter was an anonymous yet successful offensive coordinator entering his ninth straight season, 11th overall, as a coach at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
This year he is the quarterbacks coach for a Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity a long time. Finally getting back to my alma mater, and on top of that coaching a guy like Deshaun Watson, it’s very special to me,” Streeter said Wednesday at Clemson’s media day. “So yes, several times in the last 6-8 months, I’ve sat back and said, ‘I’m very blessed.’ ”
Streeter, 38, was Clemson’s starting quarterback from 1998-99. He left school with 11 program records, including single-game passing yards (343 vs. Virginia in 1999) and single-season completion percentage, though those records have been surpassed by the parade of Woody Dantzler, Charlie Whitehurst, Cullen Harper, Kyle Parker and Tajh Boyd.
The son of the longest-tenured football coach in Division III college football — Barry Streeter has led Gettysburg (Pa.) College since 1978, and specializes in quarterbacks himself — Brandon Streeter began his coaching career at Charleston Southern, suffering through a 5-18 record over two seasons (2002 and ’03).
Then he returned to Clemson, serving as a graduate assistant, tutoring Whitehurst, and spending two years in the same offensive team room as then-wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney.
From there, three years coaching quarterbacks at Liberty, three more at Liberty as offensive coordinator and three years fulfilling both roles from 2012-14 at Richmond, which plays its games in an 8,700-seat stadium.
Streeter’s second rendezvous with Clemson — taking over as quarterbacks coach following Chad Morris’ departure to SMU — started with a bang. Cole Stoudt tossed a 65-yard touchdown pass to Artavis Scott on the Tigers’ first snap, and Stoudt went on to have the best game of his career, accounting for four touchdowns in Clemson’s 40-6 romp over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl in December.
The pop quiz went well. Now comes Streeter’s real test: helping Watson, back from an ACL tear, fulfill the immense potential bestowed upon the five-star talent from Gainesville, Ga.
“I knew about him during recruiting, but once he got here, we started clicking,” Watson said of Streeter back in March. “Things have been going well so far.”
In some ways, Streeter will adapt to Watson. In some ways, Watson must adapt to Streeter.
“We’ve got to do a great job as a coaching staff to identify his strengths. He has a lot of them, which we’re fired up about,” Streeter said. “He throws the football very well. He’s got a great head on his shoulders — being around him in meetings for a while, I can see that alread. And then, his athleticism creates another dimension to the game that’s hard to defend.
“At the same time, I coach a certain way that I feel and I know is successful. I’ve been able to groom certain quarterbacks in the past. Him being able to adapt to my coaching style is just as important as us adapting to what he does athletically.”
Morris was Watson’s recruiter and mentor. But he also came from a background of being a head coach at five high schools, and as Clemson’s offensive coordinator Morris constantly had his mind on more than just the quarterbacks.
Streeter, meanwhile, has one job on the field: working with quarterbacks.
“I don’t just want a guy who throws the ball, but also has the intangibles that can really unite a team with his leadership and work ethic,” Streeter said. “I don’t want an athlete we think can be a quarterback; I’d much rather have a guy who’s already established as a quarterback.”
Streeter is intuitive enough to admit what he doesn’t know, such as why Watson struggled so mightily against Louisville (before getting hurt) following two explosive performances against North Carolina and N.C. State.
“Maybe part of it was being a freshman,” Streeter said. “We’ve got to be consistent. I know that’s a general statement, but if we’re not consistent at the quarterback spot, it’s very glaring. I can’t have a guy who’s great one week and not quite as great the next week.”
A quirky stat links Streeter and Watson. Streeter’s senior year was marred by injury, but he finished with 1,466 passing yards. Watson’s freshman year? Marred by injury, finished with 1,466 passing yards.
Obviously, Watson’s standard in 2015 is much, much higher.
“I expect him to take it one day at a time. Don’t allow the distractions, don’t allow the expectations of the media and the rest of the country to affect his play,” Streeter said. “Don’t push, because of the Heisman talk and all that. He’s deserving, but he can’t get caught up in all that. He just needs to focus on what he’s coached to do, and I think things will fall into place for him.”