For now, it's down to two, but Swinney says 'no decision' on 3-man QB battle

With Deshaun Watson sidelined, Stoudt and Kelly will go ahead to head in Orange-White game for second straight year

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4), Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly (11) and Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt (18) run a passing drill during the first day of Spring practice on Wednesday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson (4), Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly (11) and Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt (18) run a passing drill during the first day of Spring practice on Wednesday.

For now at least, it's Cole Stoudt vs. Chad Kelly, and a rerun of last year's Orange-White spring game, though under dramatically different circumstances.

The absence of freshman Deshaun Watson will assure plenty of first-line team work for Stoudt and Kelly on Saturday, with Nick Schuessler - who Dabo Swinney says impresses every chance he gets - getting third-team reps.

Stoudt and Kelly went to head-to-head in last year's Orange-White game, as third-year returning starter Tajh Boyd sat out the final spring session. The battle was shaping up as a good one until Kelly was sidelined with an ACL injury.

How much Watson's collarbone injury - which was described as a 'slight crack' when Clemson announced it Monday night - will ultimately affect the outcome of the quarterback competition remains to be seen.

Watson worked the entire scrimmage on Monday, which is probably more important to the actual competition than whatever might have happened in Saturday's 'showcase' event.

The coaches will take the Monday scrimmage, along with previous scrimmages and drills, and use it to help make decisions about key personnel battles.

Quarterback isn't the only position that will be affected my injuries.

Sam Cooper, the Tigers' most experienced tight end, is out for the rest of the spring with a shoulder injury, and Taylor Watson, who's competing in the backup mix at safety, suffered a knee injury on Monday and won't play on Saturday.

Also done for the spring is offensive lineman Eric Mac Clain, who was competing with David Beasley for the starting left guard spot and has also seen action at tackle. Doctors are currently evaluating Mac Lain's toe injury to see if surgery will be required. In any case, Swinney said the injury is not as severe as the one suffered by Andre Ellington two years ago.

Martin Jenkins' shoulder injury, coupled with Garry Peters' suspension for the Georgia game, has put a spotlight on the cornerback spots. Freshman Mackensie Alexander has grabbed one starting spot, and there are indications that sophomore Cordrea Tankersley is close to putting his name on the other.

Tankersley, who made his biggest contribution on special teams last fall, earned rave reviews from Swinney after Monday's scrimmage.

“I’ve been so impressed with his development,” said Swinney of Tankersley. "He’s been here one year, and the he thing that I love about him – he cares.

"You can see it all over him. He cares about being a great player. He’s so coachable. He cares about doing his job. We need more guys like that.”

Swinney said that even had Watson not been injured, it was unlikely that a decision would have been about the quarterback position after spring practice.

“This is a shame because he was having an outstanding spring,” said Swinney. “Fortunately this is not a serious injury. I hate that he will miss the Spring Game. I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley.

“But he'll be fine by the time summer workouts start again in May. He does not require surgery.”

Swinney said even if the coaches come of spring practice with an "idea" of who the leader might be, it would still be subject to change based on what happens during the summer and once fall camp begins.

"I just don't see it," Swinney said. "It's competitive and it's up and down every day. I love that. We've put 'em in just about every situation you can put 'em in. Sometimes it can be a little out of whack in that maybe their personnel isn't like the other group's personnel. But we put them all in that situation, and then see how they manage it.

"Overall, big picture, I think we have an incredibly competitive group, and it's just not that obvious. There may be someone who we could say at the end of spring would be the guy to run out there first, but there's still too much that has to happen between now and August - too many decisions to be made, too much leadership to be displayed, and too much development still to be done - to make that decision right now."

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