Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said in a text message Tuesday night that while senior Cole Stoudt is the starting quarterback coming out of spring ball, injured freshman Deshaun Watson will have the chance to compete for the spot this summer.
Stoudt, the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, “is starter coming of spring heading into fall,” Swinney wrote before adding that Watson will still have a chance win the job.
The Tigers open the season at Georgia on Aug. 30.
Clemson is seeking a replacement for record-setting passer Tajh Boyd, the starter the past three years who led the Tigers to an Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2011 and consecutive 11-2 seasons the past two years.
It had been a three-man race between Stoudt, Watson and Chad Kelly, the redshirt freshman who’s the nephew of NFL great Jim Kelly.
But Stoudt’s path to the top become more open when Watson cracked his collarbone at practice on April 7 and Kelly was dismissed from the program Monday for conduct detrimental to the team.
Kelly argued with coaches Saturday at Clemson’s Orange and White game. He also tried to get a former Miss South Carolina connected to Clemson, Ali Rogers, not to report a fender-bender the two were involved in.
Rogers wrote on her Twitter account Tuesday that Kelly was a passenger in a car that backed into her vehicle, and when she wanted to call police to file a report, he got “very agitated and was extremely disrespectful.”
Kelly answered back with a Twitter post, “I Hope For Nothing But The Best For @AliARogers. Mistakes Happen, Just Living And Learning.”
Kelly’s departure leaves a much thinner depth chart at quarterback than Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris had hoped for at the important position. The only other passers who saw time in Saturday’s spring game were little used Nick Schuessler and walk-on Austin McCaskill.
The Tigers hope Stoudt and Watson can be as durable as Boyd has been the past three seasons. Boyd started all 40 games from 2011-13, usually giving way to backup Stoudt when the game was out of reach.
Stoudt threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s game, the best showing of the four quarterbacks who played.
Stoudt has completed 86 of 119 career passes for 742 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in his career.
Watson was one of the most highly sought after prospects among last year’s high school seniors. He accounted for 17,134 yards of total offense at Georgia’s Gainesville High and seems more in the dual-threat mode that Clemson has used to run its fast-paced attack the past three years.
Watson’s collarbone injury was considered “slight” by team doctors and he was expected back for workouts in about three weeks, giving him ample time to get up to speed on Clemson’s offense.