CLEMSON - Chad Morris is a guy who can barely wait for the light to turn green. Try coaxing Clemson's offensive coordinator to sift through the first quarterback competition he's administered since before he can remember.
"I don't even know how patient I was over the last couple of years," said Morris, asked if he has to be more so in 2014 than 2011-13. "I'm not a very patient person."
It sure helped when Tajh Boyd was the man beyond all doubt. Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly and Deshaun Watson are now Morris' three options to start at quarterback in 2014, and Morris - not to mention teammates, fans and media - could be buckled up for the long haul.
"You have to work to the strengths of each of them, and each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses," Morris said after Clemson's first of 15 spring practices Wednesday. "In the end, it's the one who gets the team in the end zone.
"I'm excited. I think they're excited. The energy level was up. It was a good first day, and that's all it was, a first day."
Watson appeared to have those first-day jitters, underthrowing receivers on his first official session with the Tigers as the highly-touted freshman is enrolled in spring coursework. He'll wear No. 4, an exception made with the blessing of Steve Fuller, who in 1979 was the school's second athlete and first football player to have his number retired by Clemson.
But for now, the senior Stoudt and redshirt sophomore Kelly are the favorites to start at Georgia on Aug. 30.
"It's a situation where everybody respects the fact that, hey, this guy wants to be the guy, that guy wants to be the guy," head coach Dabo Swinney said. "It's going to be fun to watch it take place. Everything counts. It's going to be incredibly competitive. It's not a situation where we don't have talent at that position. . For us, who gives us the best chance to win on Saturdays right now? That's the process we've got to sort out."
Both Stoudt and Kelly, in post-practice interviews with reporters Wednesday, stressed the need to ease tension in all team meetings, even though the truth is they're hoping the other one's dreams fall short.
"When we compete, we're all trying to get each other better," Stoudt said. "Because if that quarterback room isn't working, everything isn't working. We've already had the talk: no matter who's the starter, there's always going to be someone disappointed about it, but they've got to always be the guy to help and be there for the starter."
"When you're on the field, though, you have a different type of relationship with the guys," Kelly said. "You're trying to compete; you're not really friends. When I go out there, I'm worried about one thing, and that's getting my team in the end zone."
There will be many, many more days to name the starting quarterback. Of course, there's the little matter of the backs, receivers, tight ends and linemen surrounding him as well.
"It's not just quarterback; there's a lot of positions that are wide open," Morris said. "I think there's about 11 of them, to be honest with you."
Sigh of relief
The NCAA Rules Committee will not, in fact, vote Thursday on a proposal to prohibit snaps on offense with at least 30 seconds left on the play clock, a subject drawing the ire of many college coaches around the country.
Morris was on the practice field when the NCAA announced the proposal was tabled, meaning there will be no rule change for the 2014 season.
"So there's not a 5-yard delay of game penalty for going too fast?" Morris said, eliciting chuckles from reporters. "I guess they'll study it for a year; it'll be interesting to see what the study is. But that's a whole another impasse, that's a whole another issue."
Asked if he was seriously concerned there would be change, Morris emphatically said, "Yes. Yeah. Yeah, I think there were some agendas out there that we all know sprung on everybody. I think had it not been a concern, you wouldn't have seen as many coaches rally as quickly as they did for this."
Clemson has ranked eighth in the country in offensive snaps per game in each of Morris' first three years at Clemson.
Former players in attendance at Clemson's first practice included Boyd, quarterback Rodney Williams, running backs C.J. Spiller and Roderick McDowell, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, linebacker Quandon Christian and kicker Chandler Catanzaro.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, the father of Clemson walk-on Seth Ryan, was decked out in an orange Clemson hoodie and hat.
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