The Clemson Tigers lose a very important piece to their success this season in Tajh Boyd, but Tiger fans should not have much to worry about for the 2014 season. Clemson's offense will be fine because of the depth at the quarterback position, the highly touted incoming freshman and Chad Morris' proven system.
Boyd was one of the most prolific passers in ACC history, breaking Philip Rivers' career passing touchdown record this season. He was the heart and soul of the program over the past three years and will go down as one of the best to ever wear Clemson orange.
Tajh Boyd's 505 yards of total offense vs Ohio St. were 2nd-most ever by a QB in a BCS Bowl. Only Tim Tebow had more (533, 2010 Sugar Bowl).— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) January 9, 2014
But he's gone, so what does Clemson do now? How do you replace a record-setting quarterback?
There are three quarterbacks who will go into spring practice with the goal of becoming the new starter. Dabo Swinney doesn't have a favorite, shown here in this tweet from Clemson recruiting insider Michael Burns:
Swinney looking forward to #Clemson's QB battle - lauding Chad Kelly, Cole Stoudt & Deshaun Watson. "Long way to go" to figure it out— Michael Burns (@curecruiting) January 11, 2014
Cole Stoudt, who will be a senior, has the most experience of the three. This year, he threw for 415 yards and five touchdowns. In a game against South Carolina State in September, he went 19-of-20 passing.
Chad Kelly will be a sophomore next year but is entering his third year in the program because of a redshirt season. The nephew of NFL great Jim Kelly, the younger Kelly went 10-of-17 passing and also rushed for 117 yards in limited action.
Deshaun Watson is an incoming freshman who arrived to campus a semester early, so he will be able to take part in spring practice. Scout.com has him pegged as a 4-star recruit, and Swinney feels that he is special also, according to a quote from Aaron Brenner:
Dabo Swinney on DeShaun Watson: “Probably as talented a guy as we’ve ever signed here.”— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) January 11, 2014
All three of these quarterbacks are capable of performing well for the Tigers next season. Stoudt looks like a good option because of his experience with the offensive system and the way he performed this season.
Kelly would be a smart decision, largely due to his dual-threat capability. He had a long touchdown run against Virginia this season, which can been seen in this video:
The former 3-star recruit has looked good in his limited action. Spring practice will be very important to his progression.
According to Swinney in this tweet from TigerNet, both have been working hard so far this offseason:
Dabo Swinney just said that both Chad Kelly and Cole Stoudt have been on the practice fields doing drills alone over the last few days.— TigerNet.com (@ClemsonTigerNet) January 11, 2014
Watson is the long shot to win the quarterback job, but it's not as unlikely as it may seem. Freshman quarterbacks have been successful the past two seasons; first with Johnny Manziel, then with Jameis Winston this season. These guys were redshirt freshman, but with Watson coming in early, he is essentially getting a whole offseason with the program instead of just summer practices.
Watson could be the next in line behind Boyd. He sure should remind folks of Boyd in this highlight video:
The highly recruited quarterback passed for 50 touchdowns in 2012, while also rushing for 24 more scores. Clemson's offense will be ready to roll again with this guy. It might not be next year, but the future looks bright with Watson taking over at some point.
Morris' system has a good track record. In 2010, as the offensive coordinator at Tulsa, his offense ranked fifth in the country in yards per game. In 2011, his first year at Clemson, his impact was felt immediately. He led the offense that year to school records in yards per game and points scored in a season.
Plain and simple, Morris' offensive scheme is successful. Predicting based on past performances, this year's squad should not have any trouble putting points on the board.
Even with the loss of Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant to the NFL, Clemson will still have playmakers at the receiver position. Charone Peake, Germone Hopper and Mike Williams will look to fill the shoes of the former Tigers receivers.
This year should not be a rebuilding year for the Tigers. It may not be as record-setting as previous years, but next year's offense will still have solid numbers. Watson's arrival will give the Tigers three solid choices for Boyd's replacement. Each of them has the ability to be successful in Morris' proven system.
So Tiger fans, breathe a little and quit worrying. The Tigers will be just fine in 2014.