QB 'who gives us the best chance to beat Georgia' will take season's first snaps

Dabo Swinney: 'We have excellent, excellent quarterbacks. Whoever runs out there on August 30 will be ready to lead the Tigers'

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt (18) hands the ball off to running back Wayne Gallman (9) during the first day of Spring practice on Wednesday.

Photo by Sefton Ipock

Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt (18) hands the ball off to running back Wayne Gallman (9) during the first day of Spring practice on Wednesday.

At the end of Clemson's quarterback competition, whenever that comes, Dabo Swinney says there is going to be "somebody real happy" and two other somebodies "really disappointed."

That's the way it is in the three-way battle between senior Cole Stoudt, redshirt sophomore Chad Kelly, and first-semester freshman Deshaun Watson.

Whether it will end up winner-take-all, Swinney can't say. He won't rule playing more than one quarterback.

He says the choice won't be made with an eye toward some long-range future, but will be based on "who gives us the best chance to beat Georgia."

Swinney says he's not opposed to naming a front-runner at the end of the spring, but he expects the decision to take longer than that.

And so the story begins of Clemson's first real quarterback competition since Kyle Parker and Willy Korn locked horns in the spring of 2009 - Swinney's first full season on the job.

"It was different with Kyle and Willy because neither of those guys had any experience and we were just getting going," Swinney said. "We've got a whole different foundation in place now. Cole's been in the system for three years, Chad's been in it for two years, and Deshaun was recruited to this system for what he does.

"This is a little bit deeper pool than we had then, but in a way it's not different in that you put them in competitive situations, you chart everything - their leadership, their coachability, their decision making, everything is going to count. Then you sit down and make a decision.

"They have to respect the process, and respect and trust each other."

Swinney compared the situation to the Tigers' stable of running backs with James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Andre Ellington.

"I think we have great personnel," he said. "It's going to be fun to watch it happen...We probably have three guys, for sure, who I think will play on Sunday. So it's not a situation where we don't have talent at that position. It's like when we had Davis, Spiller and Ellington, and you've got to decide who's going to run out there first.

"These are all NFL guys. For us, it's about who gives us the best chance to win on Saturdays, right now. On Day 1, Cole went out there first because he's the senior and he has the experience and is the most proven. Chad has a little experience and knows what he's doing. Deshaun has all the credentials and has played in this type of system for four years. He's been to our camps and has a great understanding of what we do. And Nick Schuessler will get an opportunity to compete, as well."

As spring practice progresses, Swinney said he'll put all the quarterbacks in live situations - a much different scenario than last year, when Tajh Boyd saw little live action.

"We'll give them some live work this spring, just because it is such a different situation," said Swinney. "We'll pick our spots to do that, most likely after we have a good foundation and base in during the second half of spring.

"If somebody emerges out of spring clearly No. 1, then great. Otherwise we'll let it keep going. Maybe it won't even settle until we get into games - I don't know."

If he had to guess, Swinney would predict the competition will extend into preseason camp.

"I just don't know that we can settle it in spring ball," he said. "People ask me all the time if we might play two guys? Well, sure. If that's what gives us the best chance to win, I'd play five guys.

"There are a lot of questions to be answered, but it will work itself out. I will say that I am very, very confident with the people we have here. We have excellent, excellent quarterbacks. Whoever runs out there on August 30 will be ready to lead the Tigers."

Follow Kerry Capps on Twitter @oandwkc

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