Not everybody is assuming Cole Stoudt is the sure QB1 come Aug. 30 in Athens.
Phil Steele pegged Clemson as the No. 23 team in the country this week, also projecting early-enrollee true freshman Deshaun Watson as the Tigers’ starter.
The five-star Gainesville, Georgia native finished a prolific high school career with over 13,000 passing yards, 4,000 rushing yards and 200-plus touchdowns (214).
He was hot on the heels of Stoudt and Chad Kelly this spring before suffering a collarbone injury in a live scrimmage, which held him out of the eventful Orange and White game.
“Stoudt was named the starter post-spring,” Steele wrote, “but I expect the battle between him, true frosh Deshaun Watson (PS#2, IFS) and Nick Schuessler to resume in the fall. Head coach Dabo Swinney will develop a solid QB, but they won't match Boyd's outstanding numbers.”
Steele’s expectations are tempered on the whole, citing the schedule as another roadblock.
“In Dabo Swinney's first two full seasons he lost a total of 12 games but has now put together back-to-back11-2 seasons,” said Steele. “CU joins Bama and Baylor as the only teams with at least one win over a Top 10 team each of last three years.”
“They draw GT and UNC out of the Coastal, UGA and SC out of the SEC and naturally face #1 Florida State but this year on the road. With the tougher schedule and big player losses, I don't see CU matching last year’s 11 win total.”
More Steele team notes…
Georgia: Clemson is 2-5 since 1970 starting the season away from Clemson.
Florida State: Clemson is 6-3 since 2006 against top-10 teams.
Louisville: The Tigers are 18-2 in their last 20 ACC home games.
Georgia Tech: The visitor is 1-8 in the last nine in the series.
Athlon among crowd picking Tigers as ACC’s next-best
Three Tigers were named to Athlon’s first-team All-ACC ‘D,’ off a team projected to go 9-3 (7-1 ACC).
They believe Stoudt will have a “solid” senior campaign.
“Tajh Boyd leaves big shoes to fill at (No. 21) Clemson, but Stoudt appears to be a capable replacement,” Athlon wrote. “In relief work last year, Stoudt completed 47 of 59 passes for 415 yards and five touchdowns. Asking Stoudt to replicate Boyd’s numbers is a tough assignment. However, with experience, mobility and a good grasp of the offense, Stoudt should have a solid senior year.”
The Tigers’ performance in rivalry games holds the key to taking the next step.
“The Tigers have yet to solve rivals Florida State and South Carolina, going 0–4 against them in the past two years,” said Athlon. “Swinney and Co. have a stingy, improving defense and the talent to replace major offensive losses, but it’s hard to see how this group could take the leap from consistent program to national title contender this fall.”
1. Florida State
2. Clemson (9-3, 7-1)
5. Boston College
6. N.C. State
7. Wake Forest
1. Virginia Tech
3. North Carolina
6. Georgia Tech
Championship: FSU over Virginia Tech