Spring practice is almost in the books for the Clemson Tigers. Next for Clemson fans is the annual spring game which takes place Saturday at 4 p.m.
The most exciting part of the spring game is the quarterback battle. However, that excitement was tempered a bit with Monday's news that freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson suffered a shoulder injury and will miss the spring game, reports Aaron Brenner of the Charleston Post and Courier.
Official release from Clemson: Deshaun Watson suffered a slight crack in his collarbone. He's out 3 weeks. No spring game for the freshman.— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) April 7, 2014
Head coach Dabo Swinney was disappointed in the news, per Brenner:
This is a shame because he was having an outstanding spring. Fortunately, this is not a serious injury. I hate that he will miss the Spring Game; I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley
Fortunately, this doesn't appear to be a serious injury and Watson will be OK for fall camp.
Just a minor set back. Can't wait to be back on the field with my boys in 3 weeks. Thanks for all the support & prayers.— Deshaun Watson (@ShaunWatson4) April 8, 2014
While the quarterback race has been close thus far in the spring, senior Cole Stoudt will have a chance to separate himself from sophomore Chad Kelly with a strong performance Saturday. Look for Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris to split the reps equally between the two.
While Watson is out for the remainder of the spring, don't count him out—yet.
Is Kelly a legitimate threat to win the job?
For most of the spring, we've heard about the excitement surrounding Watson and Stoudt's experience. But it almost seems like Kelly, the nephew of Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, is an afterthought.
Swinney and Morris both insist this competition is legitimate, and Kelly received both the first and most reps with the first-team offense during Clemson's first scrimmage last week. Does that forebode what the coaches are thinking? Or is it strictly for evaluation purposes as the coaches know what they have in Stoudt?
As it turns out, Stoudt took the most reps with the first-team offense during Monday's scrimmage.
Last week's scrimmage saw each quarterback make some good plays and some bad plays.
For Morris, while he would have liked one quarterback to take the reins early, he has been happy with the experience each player is gaining, according to David Hale of ESPN.com:
I was hoping someone would separate himself and make it clear cut that this was the guy. I thought you’d see some quick separation this spring. But it hasn’t happened, and that’s a good thing for us because they’re all three doing really well.
Kelly has a unique skill set. He has a strong arm, is accurate and is a very good athlete. Of the three contenders for the starting position, Kelly provides the best combination of those attributes. Don't be surprised if Kelly is under center when the Tigers head to Athens on Aug. 30.
Vic Beasley believes defense could be one of the nation's best
When senior defensive end Vic Beasley returned to school for his senior season, he did so thinking this team could be special. His return makes Clemson's defensive line one of the best in the ACC.
But Beasley has his sights set much higher.
"We can be the number one defense in the country," Beasley told the assembled media after practice last week, per David Hood of TigerNet.com. "I think our front seven is the best in the country."
Those are high expectations, but Beasley has reason to be excited.
Senior linebacker Stephone Anthony returns and looks to wrap up a solid career with a big senior season.
The defensive line has solid depth and the Tigers, led by Beasley, will be able to pressure any passer in the conference.
And expect linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, a highly regarded freshman last season, to take the field in 2014 and make an impact. O'Daniel has special talent and defensive coordinator Brent Venables can get creative when he is on the field.
If the secondary comes along, this defense could be special. Led by freshman Mackensie Alexander, the secondary will be young, but possesses loads of talent.
News and notes from the week
Watson isn't the only starter or high-profile player who will miss the spring game. Most notably, starting offensive lineman Eric Mac Lain will miss the contest.
Other injured Tigers: OL Eric Mac Lain (toe), TE Sam Cooper (shoulder), DB Taylor Watson (knee). All out or unlikely for the spring game.— Aaron Brenner (@Aaron_Brenner) April 8, 2014
In other injury news, former Clemson star Brandon Thomas tore his ACL last week during his preparation for the upcoming NFL draft, reports Adam Caplan of ESPN. Thomas was viewed as either a first- or second-round pick.
G Brandon Thomas (Clemson), who is rated as one of the top interior OLs for this year's draft, suffered a torn ACL last week, per source.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) April 7, 2014
Swinney has no regrets about allowing hits on the quarterbacks in the scrimmages and feels it is the best way to get a quarterback ready for live game action, per Brenner:
We don't get preseason games. It's no different than the NFL, their quarterbacks are live when they have four preseason games. So the first time they're going to be live is when they go to Athens? I don't know when we can have a fair evaluation.
Saturday's scrimmage is more than just a battle between Stoudt and Kelly. Keep an eye on the freshman WRs and Clemson's running game. But don't expect a lot of answers as players look to position themselves for a bigger role come fall camp.