As the Clemson Tigers go into training camp, veteran Cole Stoudt will be the presumed starter. Freshman Deshaun Watson is nipping at his heels, though, and the competition for the job remains open.
Stoudt has paid his dues, after backing up Tajh Boyd for the past few seasons. This is not to say that Stoudt simply deserves the job based on seniority. Stoudt has been solid for Clemson in the action he has seen in the past few seasons. The senior’s career numbers are 742 passing yards, eight touchdowns and one interception on 86-for-119 passing (72.3 percent).
Most importantly, though, the Tigers are going to need a steady quarterback. Clemson kicks off the season on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs. Then, after a quick tune-up against the South Carolina State Bulldogs, the Tigers hit the road again to take on the Florida State Seminoles. Clemson will need to minimize mistakes, and starting a true freshman at quarterback is not the best way to do that.
The fact that Stoudt has thrown only one interception in 119 passing attempts is a nice indicator of the steadiness that Clemson will need. But the thing that should really give Stoudt the edge is his experience in Chad Morris‘ offense. After spending the past few years in Morris’ system, Stoudt should know it better than anyone else on the team.
Unless Watson is head-and-shoulders above Stoudt in training camp, it should be Stoudt who takes the first snaps against Georgia. Let him show the freshman how it’s done for one season. Watson will get his chance, and he’ll still be available in the unlikely event that Stoudt turns out to be a disaster. But the Tigers also recently added David Olsen, a graduate transfer from the Stanford Cardinal, who should provide the Tigers with a serviceable backup and the ability to redshirt Watson if they choose to.
Watson’s potential may make it difficult to keep him off of the field entirely, but for now, the most important thing that he can do is study hard. Watson may be the quarterback of the future, but this should be Stoudt’s team this year.