CLEMSON - Cole Stoudt's The Man.
Dabo Swinney made it official Tuesday when he told Fox Sports that Stoudt would be the starting quarterback for Clemson in the near future.
It's been a tumultuous 24-hour period marred by a messy breakup with just-released sophomore quarterback Chad Kelly, but Swinney sounds ready to focus on the immediate future with the senior Stoudt at the helm replacing All-American Tajh Boyd.
"It should be pretty obvious that he won the job," Swinney told Fox. "He's a great leader who is highly respected by his teammates. He never once complained. He was always ready when we needed him. He's earned it and he will be named the starter."
The 6-4, 210-pound Stoudt certainly was the best quarterback on the field Saturday at Clemson's spring game, completing 15 of 23 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, leading three touchdown drives.
"Coach always emphasizes, completions, completions, completions," Stoudt said Saturday. "Just get your team down the field, even if it's just a little 3-yard throw, anything to get your team going."
Kelly, meanwhile, struggled - 10 of 18, 113 yards, two interceptions - and was benched for the second half after arguing with the coaching staff. Kelly was kicked off the team Monday afternoon by head coach Dabo Swinney for off-field "conduct detrimental" to the football program.
"There's no question Cole Stoudt had the better day, was the better leader, was more poised, handled the situation that was in front of him better," Swinney told reporters Saturday. "Everybody can see that today."
Stoudt was also clearly the Tigers' most accomplished returning quarterback on the roster even before Kelly's departure.
Stoudt currently ranks second in career passing efficiency in school history, completing 86 of 119 passes (72.3 percent) for 742 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception from 2011-13.
"The thing I like about Cole is that he's very disciplined," Swinney told Fox. "He lives by the motto that, 'You don't ever go broke by making a profit.' If it's just a simple check down that the defense will give him, he will take it. He doesn't force anything, he'll just keep moving the chains."
With Kelly gone, Stoudt's backup will be freshman Deshaun Watson, who enrolled in courses in January so he could go through spring practices. Watson fractured his collarbone April 7 and is expected to be out a few more weeks, but coaches have raved about the precocious passer and 5-star recruit.
"We come back May 15, and he'll be rockin' and rollin.' He's not going to miss anything," Swinney said after Watson's injury. "It's not like he's out of the competition; he'll pick right back up where he was and go through summer skills and drills."
Stoudt and Watson are the only scholarship quarterbacks on Clemson's roster.
Offensive coordinator Chad Morris uttered back on March 5 that "even if we name (a starter), there's no lifetime contract" - which means Stoudt still has to perform starting with the 2014 season opener Aug. 30 at Georgia.
"The competition isn't going to end; it's only going to intensify," Swinney said, "because everybody loves the backup quarterback."
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