CLEMSON -- When Cole Stoudt began tossing warm-up passes Saturday, readying to replace injured starter Tajh Boyd, one of the 78,000 fans in attendance related to the nervous energy swelling up in the true freshman Clemson quarterback.
In the Memorial Stadium stands stood Cliff Stoudt, who thought about the advice he had given his son countless times in anticipation of this situation:
Take a deep breath.
And above all things, be safe with the ball.
Cliff knows what it is to be a backup quarterback, a role where one is always on call and never enjoying the practice reps of a starter. Cliff played in 66 games in the NFL, entering 46 of them as a backup during an eight-year career. His sons, Zack at Ole Miss, and now Cole, have also found themselves as backup quarterbacks.
While Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Monday he'd be "shocked" if Boyd (strained hip) does not play Saturday, Cole took all the first-team reps at practice Monday and is Plan B for No. 8 Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) in its trip to Maryland (2-3, 1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU).
Cliff can recall the first time he entered a game as a backup, relieving Terry Bradshaw with the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 28, 1980. Cliff Stoudt completed his first pass to Lynn Swann and
finished his first drive with a touchdown pass to another future NFL Hall of Famer, Franco Harris.
"Being a backup quarterback, I knew exactly what was going on in (Cole's) mind," Cliff told The Post and Courier. "It's very difficult to be a backup quarterback. You have to prepare like you are going to play in the game, you have to be sharp mentally without getting reps in practice. I try to encourage him along the way to make sure if nothing else, he knows what's going on in his head, because you are going to get called on some day, and you have to go in there and be able to hold things together."
Saturday was the first Clemson game Cliff attended, and he said he was "10 times more nervous" than his son when Cole entered the game in the third quarter. The 18-year-old freshman completed 6 of 10 passes for 37 yards and was turnover-free.
After the game, Cliff took his son to Mellow Mushroom for a late dinner and to talk about his first experience in the spotlight, quarterbacking an undefeated team through a brush of adversity.
"My dad is a very good person I can follow, as he's been in the position I'm in," Cole Stoudt said.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Stoudt is not a typical true freshman because he enrolled early, participating in spring practice, because of his bloodlines. As a high school quarterback at Dublin Coffman High (Ohio) where Cole broke most of the passing records of alumnus and Denver Broncos quarterback Brady Quinn, Cole Stoudt took game films home to watch with his father. Cliff also offered analysis when watching college and NFL games with his sons in addition to honing their throwing mechanics.
"He always told me to prepare yourself as if you're the starter," Stoudt said.
And if Boyd's hip does not respond well in practice this week, there's an outside chance Stoudt could become a starter Saturday.
Game time on hold
ESPN exercised its six-day option for the Oct. 22 North Carolina at Clemson game time, meaning the starting time will not be determined until Sunday. The game will begin at either noon or 3:30 p.m.
Buice to transfer
Clemson redshirt freshman running back Demont Buice has decided to leave the football team and plans to transfer to another school at the end of the semester. Buice met with Swinney on Monday.
"We hate to see Demont leave our program," said Swinney. "We were pleased with his progress, but he wants more immediate playing time, so he will transfer at the end of the semester. We have granted him a release and wish him the best."
Buice, who came to Clemson from Gaston High School in Gadsden, Ala., redshirted the 2010 season. He had an outstanding spring game with 102 yards on 18 carries. He missed this year's season opener against Troy with an injury, then played each of the last five games on special teams and had two tackles.