If Cole Stoudt wasn't already the front-runner to be Clemson's starting quarterback, he certainly is now.
On Monday, fellow quarterback Chad Kelly was dismissed from the program due to "conduct detrimental to [the] program."
"He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program," head coach Dabo Swinney said in a university statement. "I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be. I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically."
Regardless of what ultimately led to Kelly's dismissal, the Tigers now have a two-man quarterback race between Stoudt and freshman Deshaun Watson.
Stoudt brings a cool head and leadership qualities to the Tigers offense. According to Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier, Kelly was benched during Clemson's spring game and reportedly got into it with members of the coaching staff.
The coaching staff wasn't having it.
"The biggest thing is he got frustrated. Maturity, leadership, that's a huge part of that position," Swinney said, via Brenner. "Those are two things he's got to continue to work on. It's a lot more than just the skills."
Now, compare that to what Swinney and Morris said about Stoudt, per Brenner.
"(Stoudt) has been very consistent the entire spring," Morris said. "He's been that steady Eddie type of guy, never too high, never too low. So it was good to see that with him today."
And Swinney: "Cole Stoudt had the better day, was the better leader, was more poised, handled the situation that was in front of him better. Everybody can see that today."
Watson wasn't available for comparison. A cracked collarbone he sustained earlier this month kept him out of the spring game and will keep him out of the remainder of spring practice, as reported by Mandrallius Robinson of The Greenville News.
Watson—a 4-star dual-threat prospect, per 247Sports—enrolled early with a ton of hype. He will be able to resume throwing later this summer and should be good to go for preseason camp.
Obviously, the quarterback situation has changed since his injury. As Tigers offensive coordinator Chad Morris previously told David M. Hale of ESPN.com, "We’d love to redshirt him [Watson], but if he’s given the opportunity to play, he’s a guy that if the door opens for him, he may never look back.”
That door just cracked open a little wider with Kelly's departure. However, Swinney told Fox Sports' Coy Wire on Tuesday that Stoudt would be the starting quarterback.
"It should be pretty obvious that he won the job,” Swinney said. “He's a great leader who is highly respected by his teammates. He never once complained. He was always ready when we needed him. He's earned it and he will be named the starter."
This is the opportunity Stoudt has waited for since serving as a backup behind Tajh Boyd. This is Stoudt's time to take the reins. He's wanted the job, but he didn't have a real chance of getting it until this year.
He's ready to lead, and he's proved that this spring. There may come a time this year when Watson proves to be the better option if Stoudt can't get it done. Until that happens—if it happens at all—this looks like Stoudt's team.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand.
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