CLEMSON — Earlier this week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said there was “no separation” in the ongoing race to replace Tajh Boyd as the Tigers’ new starting quarterback.
The 33,000 fans who attended Saturday’s Orange and White game might believe otherwise.
Senior quarterback Cole Stoudt, the veteran of a three-man race, showed poise and confidence in the White team’s 24-5 win over the Orange team inside Memorial Stadium.
His chief competition, sophomore Chad Kelly, had a difficult day in the Tigers’ most public of 15 spring workouts.
Stoudt completed 15 of 23 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, and Kelly completed 10 of 18 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was benched for the second half after questioning offensive coordinator Chad Morris and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott’s decision to punt on a fourth down late in the first half. Swinney called the benching “a coaches’ decision.”
“Today he had the better day,” Swinney said of Stoudt, who served the last three seasons as Boyd’s backup. “It’s been one of those things where it’s been up and down every day. If we kept practicing, tomorrow might be a different story. There’s no question today Cole Stoudt today had the better day, was the better leader, was more poised, and handled the situation that was in front of him better. Everybody could see that today.”
The third member of the quarterback race, highly touted freshman DeShaun Watson, watched from the sidelines with his arm in a sling after suffering a cracked collarbone this week. He will be sidelined for three weeks but is expected to be ready for summer workouts.
Stoudt said he knew he had to “get everything out” in his final spring game and was pleased with the results.
“I’m confident because I feel I’ve improved myself and my role on this team, the goal throughout spring was to improve myself, everything, throwing, reading, being a good team player,” he said. “And all the quarterbacks have done that. I still feel confident, a little more confident after spring ball, but we’ll see how it goes watching film and through summer workouts and into fall.”
Asked if Kelly’s day hurt him in the quarterback race, Swinney responded, “It don’t help. It don’t help.”
“Everything does count. Maturity, leadership, that’s a big part of that position. It’s the skills,” he said. “Chad has been great. Didn’t have a good day today, got frustrated, and reacted the way your leader can’t react. That simple. The other guy deserved to play. Not going to have guys cross the line with coaches just because they’re frustrated with whatever.”
The White team never trailed after Stoudt’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams with 6:36 left in the first half.
Redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman led all rushers with 61 yards and a touchdown. Senior D.J. Howard added 59 yards and a score. Sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett had seven receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown. Quarterbacks were not “live,” but the Tigers’ defense piled up 14 sacks.