CLEMSON — The drama swirling around the three principal players competing to become Clemson’s starting quarterback took an unfortunate turn when freshman Deshaun Watson sustained a “slight” collarbone fracture during the end of Monday’s practice.
Watson, of Gainesville, Ga., cradled his right forearm as he left the field at the indoor practice facility. Initially, Swinney said he was unaware Watson was injured. A release later confirmed Watson would miss the final week of spring practice, including the intra-squad game Saturday with “a slight crack in a collarbone.”
“This is a shame because he was having an outstanding spring,” Swinney said. “Fortunately, this is not a serious injury. I hate that he will miss the spring game. I know a lot of people were anxious to see him make his debut in Death Valley.
“He will be fine by the time summer workouts start again in May.”
Swinney departed from past policy this spring by permitting quarterbacksto be tackled during scrimmages, saying it provides an additional set of criteria in determining which to choose. Watson, senior Cole Stoudt and junior Chad Kelly are in a tight battle.
Swinney does not anticipate a decision immediately after this week.
“There’ll be somebody we might say at the end of spring in our minds, if we started today this guy might run out there first,” he said, “But there’s too much to happen between now and August.
“It’s a competitive situation. It’s making us better.”
Watson worked with the first team ahead of the others and, reportedly, performed well. Kelly said all three performed well, though Swinney said the defense was sharper, creating three sacks and two turnovers. Kelly took the field first in last week’s scrimmage.
“Some people made some impulse decisions, I think, just going a thousand miles per hour out there,” Kelly said. “There’s always stuff you can learn. We all made mistakes today.”
Neither Kelly nor Stoudt was willing to speculate on whether a decision was imminent.
“You’ve got to come here every day, you’ve got to put things that are bothering you behind you and just move on,” Stoudt said. “Whatever happened last practice, you correct it and keep getting better and better.”
Both sounded confident but deferred evaluations to Swinney and offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who said he was encouraged by how they’ve used the competition as a means of bonding.
“From Day 1 to now, I feel like I’ve improved substantially,” Stoudt said. “I’m happy with how I’m performing because I’m going to keep pushing myself to get better and get the team better.
“All I’ve got to do is to go out there and perform to my best ability and the best guy is going to play. So I’m going to compete.”
Clemson ran 90 plays during the scrimmage that featured short-yardage and two-minute drills, drives coming off the 1-yard line, at the goal line and in overtime situations.
“It’s up and down everyday, and I love that,” Swinney said of the quarterback competition. “We’ve put them in every situation you can be in
“They’ve all had really good days and done some things and other days that maybe weren’t so good for them,” he said. “Overall, big picture, I think we have an incredibly competitive group.”
NOTES: Swinney said if there was a game today, sophomore Cordrae Tankersley and freshman Mackensie Alexander would start at corner. Tankersley and running back Wayne Gallman were two players he mentioned prominently after practice. … Center Ryan Norton (shoulder) was back at full speed … OL Eric Mac Lane might need toe surgery, Swinney said. … TE Sam Cooper, who tore a knee ligament in last year’s spring game, fractured a shoulder blade last week. Swinney said he didn’t believe Cooper would miss training during the summer. … DB Taylor Watson (knee) will miss the spring game.