Following Saturday’s overtime loss to Florida State, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced true freshman Deshaun Watson supplanted Cole Stoudt as the team’s starting quarterback.
While Stoudt could be a solid quarterback for the Tigers and certainly hasn’t been awful through the first three games, starting Watson is clearly the right call for Clemson.
In three games of his career, Watson has showed the moment is not too big for him.
Against Florida State – the defending national champion – and in Tallahassee, Watson completed 19 of 28 throws for 266 yards and rushed for 30 yards on 12 attempts.
In the opener against Georgia, Watson led the Tigers on an impressive touchdown drive and finished with 59 yards and a score on two completions.
As with any true freshman quarterback, Watson is going to have his share of ups and downs. But Watson is ready for the spotlight and the opportunity to handle the full controls for Clemson’s offense.
The 2014 season is still young, but with two losses – and one in ACC play – the Tigers are unlikely to make a splash on the national scene.
No, Clemson isn’t rebuilding or already looking ahead to 2015, but at this point, why not play Watson and have him fully entrenched in the job by November? When two quarterbacks are performing at a similar level, why not play the one with more upside. In that case, the answer for Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris is clear: Deshaun Watson.
Deshaun Watson vs. Cole Stoudt Through Three Games in 2014
Yards Per Completion
Yards Per Attempt
Passing Plays of 20+ Yards
Passing Plays of 30+ Yards
As the stats show, Watson offers more big-play ability for the Clemson offense and nearly has more passing yards than Stoudt on 24 less attempts.
A favorable schedule awaits the Tigers, including four of their next five in Death Valley. The only road trip until November is an Oct. 18 date at Boston College.
There’s simply no downside for Clemson in this scenario. With two losses and Florida State a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Division, a look to the future (without a drop in production) is the right move. Watson has outplayed Stoudt, the schedule is favorable for a change under center, and the Tigers can start building momentum with a young core on offense.
Clemson loses three starters on the line at the end of 2014, but the receiving and running back corps are filled with talented youngsters. Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Charone Peake headline a deep group at receiver, while C.J. Davidson, Wayne Gallman and Adam Choice are slated to return at running back in 2015.
With the young core of skill players, and Watson having a full season to develop, Clemson’s offense will once again be one of the best in the ACC in 2015. While it's early to be breaking down depth charts for next season, an explosive offense is needed for the Tigers next year with a plethora of losses on defense.
Stoudt waited his turn behind Tajh Boyd and earned the right to start in the opener. But after three games, it’s clear Watson is Clemson’s best quarterback and option to win in 2014 - with a slight look ahead to 2015.