Post and Courier
September 23, 2014

Stoudt, Kelly primed to joust for the job of Boyd's replacement

Posted: 12/18/2013 06:46 p.m.
Updated: 12/18/2013 07:06 p.m.


By Aaron Brenner

One had a historically efficient game. The other has battled his way back from injury in a mind-boggling time frame.

Both have famous relatives who played in the NFL.

Neither is guaranteed the starting job they desire.

Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly are still getting second- and third-team reps in bowl practices behind Tajh Boyd, but the time ticks nearer for when the junior Stoudt and redshirt freshman Kelly will joust for the right to replace Boyd this spring.

Throw in highly touted freshman DeShaun Watson, who will enroll in courses in January and figures to be healthy from a knee injury for spring practices, and all eyes will be on the quarterback derby throughout the offseason.

"Competition is one of the biggest parts about college football," Stoudt said Wednesday after practice. "If you don't have competition, you can't really get better, because you don't have someone pushing you. I'm excited about it. Chad and them are all excited about it too. It's going to be a good spring and a good competition."

In the coming weeks and months as the Orange Bowl memory fades away, sports bars and water coolers around the country will play host to endless debate and conversation over who becomes Clemson's next starting quarterback.

Head coach Dabo Swinney is on record as stating the quarterback in offensive coordinator Chad Morris' system simply must have the capability to run.

That might lend a slight edge to Kelly and Watson, but Stoudt has shown some wiggle this season, including a winding 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech.

Stoudt's greatest memory from this year, however, was setting the single-game school record for completion percentage Sept. 7, connecting on 19 of 20 passes against South Carolina State when Boyd exited a tad earlier than expected.

That led to a fun conversation between Cole and Cliff Stoudt - the latter lasted 13 seasons with the Steelers, Cardinals and Dolphins.

"My dad, the first thing he says to me was, 'That was just awesome,' said the 21-year-old Stoudt. "He really didn't have anything else to say. The only other thing that was on my mind was, 'Gosh, if only I completed that one pass, because it was my fault.' He's like, 'It doesn't matter. You just went 19-for-20.' I'm like, 'True, true.' It was an experience I'll never forget."

Kelly's playing time has been a bit more sporadic, understandable since he tore his ACL in the spring game April 13, and unbelievably was back in game action less than five months later. On Oct. 5 at Syracuse, with many friends and family on hand from his native Niagara Falls, N.Y., Kelly captained a 10-play, 67-yard drive in under four minutes capped by C.J. Davidson's 2-yard touchdown.

Kelly, whose uncle Jim Kelly was a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, later ran for 56 yards on seven carries Nov. 2 at Virginia, including a 38-yard score - Clemson's second-longest rushing gain of the season.

"With there being a running quarterback, you have running plays called already for the quarterback," Kelly said. "That just gives an added dimension, when there's a pass play called, and you can scramble around and make plays, just like Johnny Manziel and all those guys."

Stoudt and Kelly are well aware Watson's on his way in, and it's getting less rare for rookies to make impacts at the game's most mature position. Although they redshirted, the last two Heisman winners were freshmen in Manziel and Jameis Winston.

Kelly doesn't play dumb; he knows Morris has promised Watson a chance immediately.

"Coming in here as a freshman, I've been told the exact same stuff since I was being recruited, my 11th-grade year," Kelly said. "Same stuff he told me, he's telling DeShaun. Can't really tell if he's right or wrong, but people try to get you to come to their school, and what you want to hear is what you like to hear. So you're going to come to the school that you really like what they're saying. You just never know, honestly."

Only one thing's for certain: whoever wins the job and takes his team to Athens, Ga., for the Aug. 30, 2014, opener at Georgia will not be the guy who's been back there three straight years.

"He's the next guy that comes in. Because there will be another guy, he's got huge shoes to fill," Morris said, using the word "his" to refer to the to-be-determined starter.

"Not just his play on the field, but how he handles off-field things. To me, that's a sign of what Tajh has meant to this university and this program. Not only you have to perform on the field, but you've got big shoes to fill off the field."