Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt was named the Tigers' starting quarterback soon after the dismissal of his competition, Chad Kelly. While there was a three-way battle for the starting spot all spring, along with early enrollee freshman Deshaun Watson, coach Dabo Swinney said Stoudt earned the job through his consistent play all spring.
“It was clear cut," Swinney said. "Cole Stoudt won the job. There was no need to wait. I think our team needed that leadership and direction as we go into the summer."
Stoudt will make his first career start this season in the opener at Georgia. I spoke with Stoudt recently to get his take on his new role. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
How long have you been waiting for this opportunity?
Cole Stoudt: I’ve been preparing ever since I got here and now the time has come. It’s kind of a relief. I still have to go out there and prepare like I always have and do the best I can do for the team.
What are some of the things you’re doing differently now that your role has changed, not just from a preparation standpoint, but from a leadership standpoint?
CS: Being a senior you’ve got young guys looking up to you and I really focused on that throughout spring ball. Now that I’ve been named the starter going into fall camp it’s a little different. You have more guys looking up to you than what it used to be in the past few years. It’s just something I’ve got to take into account for being the guy and just show my leadership and motivation to the team.
As far as technique, mechanics, the playbook, what do you feel like you have to work on the most between now and the season opener?
CS: Everything. You’ve got to keep working on everything. I’ll be working with the coaches, the other players and my dad throughout the whole summer to get myself the best I can be to prepare for Georgia and the rest of the season.
How do you feel about opening against Georgia?
CS: I feel great. To have your first start against Georgia, at Georgia, it will be incredible. It’s something you always dream for, to play against a top-10, top-20 team and perform the best you can.
How much pressure are you feeling to replace Tajh Boyd? It’s big shoes to fill and obviously the quarterback position is one that gets a lot of scrutiny and a lot of attention there at Clemson.
CS: I’m not feeling a lot of pressure. It’s just my time and you have to go out there and be the best that you can be and lead your team into the end zone.
What do you feel like your biggest strengths are right now?
CS: Pretty much just leading and sharing a positive attitude and finding any way to get your team into the end zone.
What are you looking forward to most about this opportunity?
CS: Just to make the most of it, be the best I can be and win games with my team. I’m a team player and I always have been and always will be. Whatever gets my team to win is what I want to do.
What do you think is the biggest lesson you learned from Tajh?
CS: How to be a leader and how to represent a program the right way. I’ve been watching from him and learning from him, and I’ve found he’s taught me so many things. If I went through everything he’s taught me our phones would die from talking so long. There’s so many things I’ve learned from him. He’s been a role model to me since I’ve been here. He’s been like a brother to me.
What’s your relationship like with Deshaun Watson?
CS: It’s like me and Tajh were when I got here, he put his arm around me and helped me get through things. I want to do the same, be a friend and brother to Deshaun because I know a relationship like that makes it a more comfortable situation, more comfortable in the meeting rooms, and we are excited to go to football, excited to be with the guys and the family. It’s a good situation and I’m very comfortable with it.
When Chad was still on the team, how intense was the competition all spring between the three of you guys?
CS: It was very intense. It was fun. I was excited about it every day and it made me a better player. It was a great experience, really.
Do you feel like you sealed the deal in the spring game, or did you say you knew even before then you were going to be the starter?
CS: It was a battle every day. I just went out there and performed the best I could. I knew I was going to leave the decision up to the coaches and after the spring game I felt very comfortable where I was and was happy with how I performed throughout the whole spring.