Richard Shiro, File
February 20, 2015

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said he's on track for a full recovery from knee ligament surgery, although he wishes he were healthy now to take part in offseason workouts and spring practice with his teammates.

Watson plans to start running in March and figures he'll be fully cut loose to work out in June or early July, plenty of time to be ready for the opening of Clemson's fall training camp on Aug. 4.

Watson had surgery on the ACL in his left knee last December. He played with the injury - he wore a brace - threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns, plus ran for two scores in a 35-17 victory over South Carolina in his last game.

It was Watson's second surgery of his freshman year after having an operation to fix a broken bone in his throwing hand suffered against Louisville last October. Watson missed five games last season, including the Tigers 40-6 win over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl, because of his hand and knee injuries.

Watson said he's eager to return and show he's a durable performer who can hold up throughout a season. It bothers him he's not out there now for the team's early morning mat drills and next month's spring practice.

''It's kind of hard'' on the sidelines, he said. ''I love the grind and being out there with my teammates.''

These days, though, Watson understands his job is getting healthy and getting his knee stronger.

''Just taking it one day at a time, and hopefully when the summer rolls around, they'll let me do some more,'' he said.

After Watson's showing in the rivalry win over South Carolina, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney considered playing the freshman in the Tigers' bowl game before reversing course a few days later and opting for an earlier surgery so rehab could start sooner and recovery complete without impacting 2015.

Watson, when he played, was Clemson's breakout, offensive star. Despite his games missed, Watson finished ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 14 touchdown passes. His quarterback efficiency rating of 188.6 would've easily led the ACC had he played in enough games.

Swinney said Watson's ahead of schedule on his rehab, easily reaching marks doctors and trainers look for when monitoring a knee ligament after surgery.

''He's a genetic freak, he really is,'' Swinney said earlier this month. ''Same thing mentally, the kid is off the charts. How he responds, it's like nothing I've ever seen.''

Watson proved that early on, leading Clemson to a touchdown drive at Georgia's raucous Sanford Stadium on his first series of college football. He supplanted senior starter Cole Stoudt early on against defending national champion Florida State a few weeks later, passing for 266 yards and running for a touchdown in the Tigers' 23-17 overtime loss.

He blossomed his next two contests over North Carolina and North Carolina State, accounting for 796 yards and 10 touchdowns in the blowout victories.

Watson's progress slowed after that with the injury against Louisville. He returned a month later to start against Georgia Tech, yet was knocked out in the first quarter with a knee bruise and ligament sprain. Swinney said Watson tore the ACL while practicing the week after falling to Georgia Tech.

Watson's part of projections for next fall's Heisman Trophy list, status he said he doesn't concern himself with. Now, it's all about getting healthy and showing Clemson coaches, staff and fans he can stay that way.

The quarterback said he's got some muscle and mobility back.

Said Watson, ''I can't wait to get out there again.''

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