The quarterback competition at Clemson is now down to two -- at least for the remainder of the spring.
Freshman Deshaun Watson, one of the top QB recruits in the Class of 2014, will miss the remainder of spring practice -- including Saturday’s spring game -- after suffering a slight crack in his collarbone during Monday’s scrimmage.
Coach Dabo Swinney said Watson played the entirety of the scrimmage and wasn’t sure when the injury occurred, but Swinney said Watson should be back practicing within three weeks. The injury will not require surgery.
“It’s a shame because he was having an outstanding spring,” Swinney said. “I hate that he’ll miss the spring game, and I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley.”
Watson was competing for the vacant starting QB job with senior Cole Stoudt and sophomore Chad Kelly. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Watson was a unique talent with a bright future, but even before the injury the chances of the freshman edging out his more experienced competition after the spring game were slim.
“I can’t see it being Deshaun right now,” Morris said last week. “I don’t think he’s got enough time to beat them out. But I think he’s commanded everybody’s attention going, 'Hang on, look out.'"
Watson, who was ranked as the No. 16 overall recruit and top dual-threat quarterback in this year’s signing class, enrolled early at Clemson this spring to compete for the job. While Morris considered Watson a longshot candidate -- he's worked largely with the No. 2 offense this spring -- he didn’t discount the chances his freshman could secure the job at some point this year.
“He’s going to be really special,” Morris said. “I don’t know what he’ll do in fall camp, but I know this: We’d love to redshirt him, 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. He’s got that type of ability.”
Instead, it will be Stoudt and Kelly trading punches in Clemson’s spring game. Stoudt is the more seasoned veteran, with 86 career passing attempts under his belt as Tajh Boyd’s backup the past three seasons. Kelly, however, brings more mobility to the job, and Clemson coaches have given him a chance to showcase his athleticism by allowing quarterbacks to be hit during scrimmages this spring. It's unclear whether the live contact played a part in Watson's injury.
While Swinney has said there is no timetable to make a decision on the starter, Morris admitted there was a benefit to setting a depth chart soon, both in terms of setting the stage for one QB to take command of summer workouts and establishing a game plan for the offense.
“If it’s Cole, he’s not quite the runner that Chad and Deshaun are, and we have to adapt to him,” Morris said. “That’s OK, we can do that. But if it’s Chad or Deshaun, you might be more zone-read than you are anything. I really like my guys. I think we’ve got three of the best guys — there are people all over the country that would love to be in the position we’re in.”