While the Clemson Tigers still have one more game with senior Tajh Boyd under center in January’s Discover Orange Bowl matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes, it’s never to early to peek ahead to the 2014 season. Boyd will be gone, opening the door for a new quarterback to lead the Tigers’ offense next season. Junior Cole Stoudt has served as Boyd’s backup, dutifully playing the understudy, but is he ready to step into the starter’s role next fall?
In limited action, Stoudt has been incredibly efficient throwing the football. He finished 2013 completing 47-fo-59 passes for 415 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions but mostly only saw time in garbage time when Clemson had games firmly in hand. Only twice this season did Stoudt more than 10 passes in a game when he went 19-for-20 for 143 yards and three touchdowns against FCS South Carolina State (a 52-13 rout) and against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons when he completed 10-0f-11 for 90 yards and a touchdown in a 56-7 romp.
Stoudt will have to prove that his stats weren’t simply a product of playing against inferior and already beaten down defenses this offseason. And he may have to do it while learning a completely new system. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris figures to be one of the hottest names to make the jump from coordinator to head coach this offseason. His offense has pushed the Tigers right to the cusp of the college football elite (and possibly into it if he can win in the Orange Bowl) and his stock is at an all-time high right now. If the right job comes along, Morris could make the move, especially considering that he’ll lose Boyd and top receiver Sammy Watkins after this season.
That puts an extra wrinkle into the quarterback competition this summer. Stoudt may have to hold off freshman Chad Kelly, nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, for the job and a new system getting installed would negate Stoudt’s experience advantage. Whoever ends up under center next season will have big shoes to fill to try and keep Clemson at the level that Boyd took them to in his collegiate career.