|by David Hood|
The rising senior played behind Tajh Boyd for three seasons, playing the part of the faithful backup and saying all of the right things. However, like any competitor, he wanted to play, and with his final season in a Tiger uniform looming, he has battled Chad Kelly and talented freshman Deshaun Watson for the right to start.
Following Saturday’s performance, Stoudt has to feel pretty good about his chances of starting in Athens on August 30th when the Tigers open the season at Georgia. In fact, Stoudt has to feel like the starting job is his to lose.
Watson didn’t play Saturday as he recovers from a fractured collarbone, and Kelly threw two interceptions in the first half. Kelly was then benched for the second half after a verbal altercation with the coaches late in the second quarter.
Stoudt, meanwhile, led three scoring drives and didn’t turn the ball over, showing the kind of game management the coaches are looking for.
“I’m happy with how I played. I went out there and did what I could do,” Stoudt told the media after the game. “I made the right reads, although I know I missed a few. I am not perfect. I’ll go back and watch film tonight or tomorrow with my dad (former Pittsburgh Steelers QB Cliff Stoudt) and see what I did so I can work on that for the rest of spring, in the summer and into the fall. But I felt good with how I did today. I had a good spring and I’m kind of excited for how this fall will turn out.”
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney agreed that Stoudt had the better day on Saturday, but didn’t rule out Kelly or Watson making it a competition in the fall.
“Absolutely. Today Cole definitely had the better day,” Swinney said. “But it's been one of those things where it’s been up and down every day. If we kept practicing, tomorrow may be a different story. Today Cole was the better leader; he was more poised and handled the situation in front of him better. Everybody could see that today."
Stoudt finished the day by completing 15-of-23 passes for 158 yards, including touchdown passes of 28 and 16 yards to rising sophomores Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett. Stoudt said that offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes a point of telling his quarterbacks that it doesn’t matter how you get your team down the field, it only matters that you do.
“Coach Morris always stresses completions, completions, completions, and just getting your team down the field,” Stoudt said. “Throughout spring I think I’ve really improved on my throwing and on my reads, and having all the chemistry and all that. I think we all have a very comfortable situation with how we’ve been competing. I think I’ve improved myself as a player and a leader.”
Morris said that Stoudt did exactly what he needed to do.
"(Stoudt) has been very consistent the entire spring," Morris said. "He's been that steady Eddie type of guy, never too high, never too low. So it was good to see that with him today."
Neither offense looked sharp in the beginning, but Stoudt got his team on the board with his first touchdown pass, a hot read to Williams on a corner blitz.
“Mike was calling the corner blitz right before the snap of the ball and he was screaming his head off saying, ‘Hey, hello, I’m here,’” Stoudt said. “That’s what we’ve developed this spring is communication on the field.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org