RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press
Cole Stoudt is the most experienced of the 3 quarterbacks vying to replace Tajh Boyd.
When Tajh Boyd finished up his college career with an Orange Bowl win over Ohio State, he left an impressive legacy behind. Boyd led Clemson to its first ACC title since 1991 and a trio of 10-win seasons, including the program’s first-ever consecutive 11-win seasons. Clemson won 10 games for three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1987-90.
Boyd set 53 Clemson and ACC records, including the Tigers’ career marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns, total touchdowns and completions and the ACC record for passing touchdowns.
As Clemson nears the halfway mark of spring practice, the race to replace him remains an open question.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris are running a three-man race among early-enrollee freshman DeShaun Watson, solid senior Cole Stoudt and highly-touted dual-threat sophomore quarterback Chad Kelly.
Swinney said before spring practice began that if one quarterback “separated” during spring practice, he’d be happy, but is open to beginning the season with multiple quarterbacks. He said that the starter in the season opener at Georgia won’t have a “lifetime contract.”
Swinney called Stoudt “the most proven.” The pocket passer spent the last three seasons as Boyd’s backup and was impressive in 2013. He completed 79.7 percent of his passes and threw for 415 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Kelly, the nephew of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, was a gem of Clemson’s 2012 recruiting class as a four-star signee. He suffered a torn ACL in the Tigers’ 2013 spring game but made an impressive comeback, serving as Clemson’s No. 3 quarterback. His experience was limited to mop-up duty, but he showed flashes of brilliance, completing 10 of 17 passes for 58 yards while adding 117 yards rushing and a 38-yard rushing touchdown. He mixes a strong arm and great mobility and is a threat to run or pass.
Watson was the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback, per 247Sports, and a 4-star signee. He was a four-year starter at Gainesville (Ga.) High School, piling up 13,000 yards passing and over 4,000 yards rushing while calling his own plays at the line of scrimmage. This spring, Swinney said he has “all the credentials” to succeed at Clemson.
This is likely Stoudt’s job to lose given his overall experience in the offense, but don’t count anyone out. There’s a lot of time left before September. Whoever gets the job, however, will have a tough time living up to Boyd’s standard.
Clemson also lost its top two receivers to the NFL draft in Sammy Watkins (a likely top-5 pick) and Martavis Bryant. Senior Adam Humphries, junior Charone Peake and sophomore Mike Williams are the top returnees mixing with a trio of freshman early enrollees in Demarre Kitt, Kyrin Priester and Artavis Scott.