Position Battle No. 1: Quarterback
The last time the Tigers had a full-fledged battle for the starting quarterback position was in 2009 - Dabo Swinney's first full season as head coach - when Kyle Parker beat out Willy Korn in a head-to-head duel that began in the spring and extended into August.
Two years later, Tajh Boyd - who emerged as Parker's backup in 2010 - went into the spring competition as a clear favorite over first semester freshmen Cole Stoudt and Tony McNeal. He nailed down the job and held it for three record-setting years.
Cole Stoudt, 6-5, 210, Senior, Dublin, Ohio (Coffman): Stoudt has spent the past three seasons as understudy to Boyd, and has seen spot action both in runaway games and when Boyd has left the field for minor injuries. He's never been called on as a starter, but already holds one Clemson record, with his 19-of-20 passing performance last fall against S.C. State.
For his career, Stoudt is 86-119 passing for 742 yards and eight touchdowns against one interception in 287 snaps over 22 games in his career. He has completed 72.3 percent of his passes and has a 145.1 passing efficiency rating. He's rushed the ball 29 times for 107 yards.
In high school, he broke Dublin Coffman passing records previously set by former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn.
Chad Kelly, 6-1, 210, Sophomore, Niagara Falls, N.Y. (St. Joseph's): After redshirting as a freshman, Kelly was locked into a tight battle with Stoudt for the backup quarterback position last spring before suffering an ACL injury in the Orange-White game in April. He made an unusually rapid recovery and saw his first collegiate action on Sept. 6 against South Carolina State.
Kelly ended up playing in five games, and was 10-of-17 passing for 58 yards in 55 snaps. He also had 117 rushing yards and one touchdown on only 16 carries.
As a high school junior, Kelly became the first player in New York history to have more than 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He fell just shy of the 3000/1000 mark as a senior, when he passed for over 3,000 yards and rushed for 991. He was a four-time national champion in Punt, Pass & Kick competition, and is the current record holder.
Deshaun Watson, 6-3, 188, Freshman, Gainesville, Ga. (Gainesville): Watson arrived at Clemson in January after a record-setting career at Gainesville High, and nearly two years after he first committed to the Tigers. He established state of Georgia high school records for career total offense (17,134) and total touchdowns passing and rushing (218), and had set the Georgia state records for touchdown passes and total offense by the end of his junior year.
He is Clemson's highest ranked signee for 2014, rated as No. 16 player in the nation by ESPN.com, 31st by Rivals.com, 41st by 247 Sports and No. 84 by Scout.com. He's listed as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com, Rivals and 247 Sports.
Nick Schuessler, 6-3, 195, Sophomore, Loganville, Ga. (Grayson): Schuessler, who originally signed with Mississippi State in 2012 after leading Grayson High to a state title, transferred to Clemson as a preferred walk-on, redshirted the 2012 season and then saw action in three games last fall. After the season, Schuessler was honored as one of the Tigers' scout team players of the year.
Stoudt has the clear edge in experience, but Kelly showed last spring that he can compete for the job on even terms. Watson is the wild card in the mix, and is a player who'll benefit from his early enrollment. Dabo Swinney says that all four candidates have strong leadership skills. He'll be in no hurry to name a starter this spring, and the competition will likely continue in preseason camp next August.