The Tajh Boyd era is officially over at Clemson, leaving the Tigers without a proven starting quarterback for the first time in several years.
Expect a heated competition to begin this spring between longtime backup Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and incoming early enrollee freshman Deshaun Watson. But there are no guarantees only one player will emerge to take the majority of the snaps. Coach Dabo Swinney did not dismiss the possibility that multiple quarterbacks could play in 2014.
Stoudt has the game experience and the most time spent in offensive coordinator Chad Morris' system, but he does not quite fit the dual-threat quarterback profile. Does his experience give him an edge? That remains to be seen. I had a chance to catch up with Stoudt during Orange Bowl practices to get his take on what is to come this spring.
What is the biggest thing you learned from Tajh Boyd these last few years?
CS: How to be a good player and a good citizen to everyone, how to be a good person. Tajh showed me how to be the face of a program. When you look at Clemson, people say, ‘Well, who’s the face of the program? People are going to say Tajh Boyd. He’s done so much for this program, he and all the seniors have changed everything and made this program so much better. What they've done is so impressive.
So what does it mean to have an opportunity to follow behind him?
CS: It’s going to be great. I’m excited about it. I’m going to take everything I’ve learned from Tajh and everything I’ve learned from all the coaches and the other seniors and give everyone the best I’ve got. I’m going to try to fill into his shoes. I know he’s got some big shoes to fill in, but he’s taught me everything he knows, so I feel confident going in there.
What has it been like waiting for this opportunity?
CS: When I first got here it was a little hard, but then I realized I wasn't ready. I had a lot to learn, so I got better every single day I could and waited for my opportunity to arrive. When I got into games, I played the best that I could. Ever since then, me and Tajh have been right by each other. We stay together just like brothers. I’ve learned a lot from him.
Don’t you own one record he doesn’t, the single-game completion percentage record?
CS: (Laughs). I rub that in his face a little bit. Hey Tajh, I threw better than you!
What type of edge does having game experience give you?
CS: Experience is always a big thing to have. You don’t want to go in there and have no experience. I’m glad over three years I’ve gotten a lot of experience. I’ve gotten to know the speed of the game, what a game situation’s like, what it’s like going in front of 85,000 [people], national TV. The pressure of going in goes away because you’re more used to it. You just zone out everything and focus on your guys, the defense and the play.
How much does it help you that you’ve now been in this offensive scheme with Chad Morris for three years?
CS: Every single day we go into the meeting room, we can draw the play and we can come out here and run it without taking reps on it because we know the playbook so well and just we can create any play out on the field. I think it’s one of the best offenses because there’s so much you can do with one formation.
When it comes time for offseason work, what will it be like to know Tajh is gone and what will you do to establish yourself as a leader?
CS: It’s going to be sad that he’s gone but I know he’ll still be around. I’m just going to try to become the best I can be and I’m going to do what Tajh did. I’m going to be a good citizen, I’m going to show that I’m a leader to the team, just get better every day and get other people on the team better, too, so we can have a good season, good spring, just push everyone and make sure we’re on the same level and ready to go.