Clemson QB race takes turn in 24-5 White win

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt, center, throws a pass during the Tigers' NCAA college football spring football game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. on Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt, center, throws a pass during the Tigers' NCAA college football spring football game at Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. on Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark Crammer)

CLEMSON — Dabo Swinney has gone more than out of his way to say Clemson’s quarterback competition is too close to call.

Spring game wrap

Swinney wraps Tigers' spring

Saturday, he probably wasn’t planning for it to tip one way or the other, but even a fairly vanilla spring game can’t be scripted quite that well.

Leading the White squad, Cole Stoudt — the senior veteran — was on target from the get-go in front of 33,000 folks on a chamber of commerce Death Valley day. Sophomore Chad Kelly, meanwhile, was up and down — on and off the field.

Stoudt threw two first-half touchdowns and his defense — led by senior ends Vic Beasley and Tavaris Barnes kept the Kelly-led Orange offense scoreless in the first half, and that trend continued into the second where the White capped off a 24-5 win.

After five drives — and 2.3 yards per play per side to start — Stoudt’s crew cracked the scoreboard when he found sophomore receiver Mike Williams wide-open for a 28-yard touchdown reception. Stoudt credited an alert Williams for the play.

“Mike was calling the corner blitz right before the snap of the ball and he was screaming his head off saying, ‘Hey, hello, I’m here,’” Stoudt said with a smile. “That’s what we’ve developed this spring is communication on the field.”

Kelly’s arm warmed up toward the end of the first quarter, connecting on two passes for 46 yards (starting 5-of-7 for 66 yards). Beginning the second quarter, however, he lofted a ball into double-coverage and redshirt freshman Adrian Baker came down with the interception.

His next pass? Underthrown and in the arms of senior cornerback Garry Peters.

Kelly finished the half 10-of-18 for 113 yards. In the second half, he had the helmet-in-hand — and on head — at points up to mid-fourth quarter, but was never called to come on the field.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said postgame he told Kelly he was benched after a bad response to a coaching decision in the first half.

“I think Chad’s a great competitor,” Morris said. “Sometimes I think that works against him. He’s so competitive and he wants to win at everything he does. That’s what makes him special. He got a little frustrated today.

“I hated that for him. He had a good spring. I didn’t like the way he handled some adversity.”

Meanwhile, Stoudt connected for a couple downfield throws and then a 16-yard fade score to tight end Jordan Leggett. Leggett had a game-high seven catches for 59 yards.

Stoudt finished the half 8-of-13 for 98 yards — and finished the game 15-of-23 for 158.

“I can work on that for the rest of spring and summer into fall camp,” Stoudt said. “I just have to get in there and correct what I did wrong. I felt good with what I did today. I had a good spring and I’m kinda excited with how this fall is going to turn out.

“I knew I had to give everything because being a senior this one was my last (spring game).”

Swinney and Morris agreed that there’s plenty to go in the three-way race — which excluded freshman Deshaun Watson on Saturday due to a broken collarbone. Stoudt made the most of his opportunity though.

“Today, he definitely had the better day,” Swinney said. “It’s been one of those things where it’s been up and down every day. If we kept practicing, it may be a different story. Cole Stoudt had the better day. Was the better leader. Was more poised. Handled the situation in front of him better.

“Chad Kelly is an awful talented young man and he made a couple impulse decisions today were out of character for him. He got frustrated.”

The Orange o-line, with two redshirt freshmen featured prominently (Tyrone Crowder and Maverick Morris), couldn’t contain the senior end duo of Barnes and Beasley.

Morris on Kelly's benching, Tiger offense

None

They combined for 10 tackles and six of the White squad’s 11 sacks.

Senior running back D.J. Howard looked every bit the back he’s been hailed as this spring, averaging 6.6 yards per carry and scoring on a tough 13-yard run.

Daniel product C.J. Davidson rushed for 44 yards on five carries and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman went nine for 61.

Junior kicker Ammon Lakip made (39) and missed (53) a field goal attempt.

“The big thing for me was seeing how some guys responded playing next to guys that hadn’t played next to,” Swinney said. “Some guys playing a lot more snaps. Seeing our guys go out there compete in front of a big crowd. Our crowd was awesome. That’s probably been the best crowd since I’ve been there.

“I really appreciate the fans coming out and creating the environment to help us further evaluate our football team.”

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Comments » 9

TigerFan95 writes:

The way I saw it, Stoudt is clearly the starter with good but not great talent. Schuesler is a competent third string QB but was the second best QB on the field. Kelly was awful and is a borderline D1 talent. Come August I wouldn't be surprised if our QB depth chart was : Stoudt, Watson, Schuesler and Kelly no longer on the team.

TigerNE writes:

in response to TigerFan95:

The way I saw it, Stoudt is clearly the starter with good but not great talent. Schuesler is a competent third string QB but was the second best QB on the field. Kelly was awful and is a borderline D1 talent. Come August I wouldn't be surprised if our QB depth chart was : Stoudt, Watson, Schuesler and Kelly no longer on the team.

The most likely scenario is that Kelly will leave should he not believe he will get significant playing time, even if the second in a 2 QB duo.

It is exaggerating to say he is borderline D1 talent. That suggests he wouldn't even start in the Sun Belt, for example. Silly.

I also doubt Watson would be put #2 on the depth chart. It's possible, but it is the least desirable option of all the possible combinations. If he isn't a RS, he's #1. But I still think he will be RS.

waran writes:

I will grade Cole Stoudt as a B, Chad as C-. I am not sure whether our D was so good but will grade the O-line as C. There does not seem to be much confidence in the WR. The only positive I saw was the RB (may be because my expectations were low). Some of those runs were tough and hope they show it in a real game. But it was good spring entertainment.

columbiabill writes:

Interesting spring game. No doubt Stoudt had the better game, but at the same time had the best receiver in Williams. In Kelly's defense,the QB touch rule hurt his performance as on several occasions he was off to a big gain when touched. Stoudt is the game manager QB, while it looks like Kelly is the gunslinger type. Both can be effective, it just depends. Watson ???, who knows at this point. Agree with another poster that unless #1, I think Kelly will be gone.

TigerNE writes:

On the RB front there was a lot to like. Howard showed he can breakaway and dodge into a gap. Davidson looks speedier than ever and showed some agility - I think he has more hidden somewhere. Gallman showed power with 3 or 4 guys on him. And if they decide to play Fleming he looks like he could be the up the middle bruiser we've been looking for.

Bigboots writes:

Crash much

Bigboots writes:

Is Kelly on drugs?

clemvol writes:

Just need a steady Quarterback that knows the offense like the backside of his hand. Doesn't need to win the game and doesn't need to lose the game for you. Smarts is number one, talent number two. Emphasis needs to be other positions.

Bigboots writes:

in response to Bigboots:

Crash much

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