TigerNet.com
Saturday, May 17, 2014 12:07 AM
Swinney: Stoudt is the starter, but Watson not backing down
by David Hood
Senior Writer

GREENVILLE – Shortly after the conclusion of spring practice, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney anointed senior Cole Stoudt as the starting quarterback heading into summer workouts and fall camp, but Swinney said earlier this week that Stoudt has to continue to earn his playing time.

Stoudt appeared to be the leader after battling Chad Kelly and freshman Deshaun Watson the entire spring, but Kelly was dismissed from the Clemson program just a few days after the spring game following a series of incidents. The loss of Kelly gave Stoudt the starting nod, but Swinney told the media prior to this week’s Prowl and Growl in Greenville that the best player will play.

Swinney also said that he is excited about the possibilities, saying he believes the competition will make each one of them a better player and that the “unknown” creates more urgency.

“I’m excited, because you kind of have new energy, if you will, because there are some unknowns and there are a lot of questions,” Swinney said outside of Greenville’s Fluor Field. “We didn’t have a lot of questions coming into last year. Now, who is going to win the starting job at certain positions? Who is going to separate and emerge as we get ready to go into that opening week against the Dawgs? It’s exciting.”

Stoudt served as the backup quarterback behind Tajh Boyd from 2011-13, and he is 86-for-119 passing for 742 yards and eight touchdowns against one interception in 287 snaps over 22 games in his career. He has completed 72.3 percent of his passes and has a 145.1 pass efficiency rating, and he has rushed for 107 yards and two scores on 29 carries.

The biggest question mark for Stoudt is how he will produce as the starter. He has had limited snaps against first-team defenses in his career, but did lead a game-winning drive against Boston College back in 2011, and Swinney says it helps to have Stoudt’s experience.

“First of all, you have an experienced guy. Cole has had some incredibly valuable experience,” he said. “For a guy that’s been a backup, he has had some great experience and some great production in some critical situations. And he has earned it. He is a leader. The guys have rallied around him and I think we have good direction as we head into the summer. They actually started their summer workouts this week. I am excited to see Cole lead the Tigers. He has performed well as a backup, but now he has to play to a high standard as a starter.”

In 56 games at Gainesville (GA) High School, Watson’s numbers looked like something off of a video game: For his career, Watson was 939-of-1458 for 13,077 yards and 155 touchdowns with 29 INT; He had 618 carries for 4,057 yards and 59 touchdowns as a runner. As a senior, he was 273-of-412 for 3,775 yards and 47 touchdowns with eight interceptions. On the ground, he carried the ball 143 times for 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns. An added bonus – he also had two receiving touchdowns as a senior and had three for his career.

In other words – the kind of player you can build a program around.

“Yes, you have a young and special talent in Deshaun Watson. He’s going to have an opportunity to play, and he is going to keep competing for the job. It’s a great situation. Hopefully Cole performs to the level we know he can and he can be the guy all throughout the year. And then we can bring Deshaun along. You know, when you have a guy like that he’s a guy you can build your program around over the next few years. But you also have a healthy competition going on. It’s not like Deshaun is just going to show up in July and say, ‘Ok, I’m the backup.’ He came in back in January well-prepared. It’s going to be a very good competition and that’s what you need in order to get the best out of all your players. “


David Hood can be reached at davidhood@tigernet.com