Many fans are hoping that Saturday afternoon’s annual Orange and White spring game will lend some hint as to who the starting quarterback will be for the August 30 season opener. To this point, the competition has looked strong, and we seem as far away from a decision as we did when spring practice got under way over a month ago.
When the Tigers suited up in early March for spring practice, one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind was “who is going to be the starting quarterback?” Would it be the veteran, Cole Stoudt, who completed nearly 80% of his passes as Tajh Boyd’s backup a season ago? Would it be Chad Kelly, the outspoken, extremely confident nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly? Or would it be Deshaun Watson, the highly recruited Freshman, looking to make an impact as an early enrollee in Clemson? As spring practice has carried on, two things have become increasingly clear. First, there is still no real clear cut number one guy ahead of the pack. And second, Deshaun Watson will most likely be carrying a clipboard in the fall.
I always thought that Watson needed a year or two to bulk up and learn the offense, while one of the veterans in Stoudt or Kelly, would get the shot at starting in 2014. If there was ever a doubt that this was to be the case, I think it went out the window the minute Watson cracked his collarbone in a scrimmage last week. Watson will, of course, miss the spring game, much to the dismay of many Tiger fans, but will be ready for summer workouts, coach Dabo Swinney said.
While Clemson fans were excited to see Watson’s first test in Death Valley, I think that the veteran presence that Stoudt and Kelly can provide would have ultimately led Swinney to choosing one of the latter anyway as his opening day starter in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs. With Watson now seemingly out of the picture, Saturday’s spring game offers both Stoudt and Kelly an unbelievable opportunity to showcase to Tiger fans, and more important to Swinney, what they can do on the football field in 2014.
I detailed the quarterback battle about a month ago now, and I still see it playing out the same way as I did before. Watson, somewhat by default, appears to be out of the picture at this point, as I see him being just too far behind his competition, especially having to sit out for these few important weeks. Stoudt, who performed admirably last year in mop up duties, brings the veteran presence and leadership that only a Senior can bring, while Kelly possesses all of the natural abilities and confidence that you want out of a quarterback. Saturday afternoon’s Spring Game will certainly have an impact on how this battle plays out, but I still fully expect Chad Kelly to prove that he is not only the best quarterback on this team, but maybe one of the top quarterbacks in the nation.