Projecting the Clemson Football depth chart: Quarterback

Cade Klubnik still has a hold on the starting quarterback job for Clemson Football, but Trent Pearman can make his case for playing time this fall.
Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) stretches during Spring football practice
Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik (2) stretches during Spring football practice / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Spring practice has concluded for Clemson Football. The biggest news items for the next couple of months will be the transfer portal and recruiting. Things on the recruiting front will heat up big time in about a month when official visits for 2025 prospects begin and the team begins dispensing offers to the 2026 class.

Though the roster can be impacted by transfers, we can begin to discuss the depth chart. Clemson doesn’t release full depth charts that often these days and the transfer portal might be a big reason for that. It doesn’t make sense to release a chart with names that might not be on the roster in two weeks, nor does it help anyone within the program to announce that someone might not be projected as a starter or a key backup. That would just entice other programs to recruit players on Clemson’s roster harder.

We’ll start discussing the depth chart today with the position that stirs the drink: quarterback

Projected starter: Cade Klubnik

Projected backup: Trent Pearman

Reserves: Chris Vizzina, Paul Tyson

Let’s start with Klubnik. He didn’t play well in the spring game. He did have moments where he looked good. He led a touchdown drive. He has always had good moments.

He also threw an interception and twice put the ball in harm’s way. He has always had these moments too. The problem has been consistency, and the only way to solve that is to go long periods without making a mistake.

Though we can point at examples where quarterbacks bloomed late in their careers (Joe Burrow and Kenny Pickett are the best recent examples), usually we know by a player’s junior season what their ceiling is. Should we consider this spring the final chapter of Klubnik’s sophomore campaign, or the start of that critical junior season?

I lean towards the former. The time between the end of the regular season and spring is used for recovery. The time between now and fall camp is used for preparation. This is one of the big reasons I believe Klubnik can still improve his consistency going into next season.

Additionally, it’s not in this staff’s reputation to make significant changes at quarterback in the offseason. Spring ball and fall camp are when an up-and-coming player gets into the conversation and earns some playing time. Deshaun Watson earned playing time in 2014, but he didn’t beat out Cole Stoudt until he proved himself on the field of play. Same for Trevor Lawrence: he earned the right to play and used that time to outplay Kelly Bryant.

Thus why I feel confident Klubnik will be the starter. That leads to the next question: can Trent Pearman earn playing time in fall camp? The answer is yes. When that playing time could come is less certain.

The Tigers open the season against Georgia, and that’s a difficult situation to insert a walk-on backup. It’s not impossible. If Klubnik is awful against the Bulldogs and Pearman has convinced the staff he can handle the pressure of stepping onto the field in primetime, then they could give him a chance to make a spark. My guess is that those odds are quite low, however.

This leads us next to Vizzina, who didn’t have the greatest arsenal of weapons around him in the spring game. In hindsight, I wish one of two things had been done differently. Either the Tigers should have broken the starters/best players available up more evenly between the two squads, or they should have rotated all three quarterbacks the way they rotated Pearman. That way we could have seen Vizzina with the better group of receivers.

That said, Vizzina only showed marginal improvement over last spring. He did look more natural in the pocket, and the results were statistically better, but we didn’t see ‘the leap’ that Dabo Swinney said Vizzina had taken.

Tyson will act as a coach to start the season and will be available should injuries impact the availability of the active quarterbacks.

In conclusion, I’m right where a lot of Clemson fans are: I wanted to see the improvement in consistency from Klubnik in the spring game, but I didn’t get that, which is frustrating. I’m not closing the door on his improvement, however, and I think the odds still significantly favor him to start the season against Georgia. I think Pearman will have his chance to move ahead of Vizzina on the depth chart and make a case that he should get snaps.