The competition to become Clemson starting quarterback became less complex — but more painful — on Monday when Chad Kelly was dismissed from the team for what coach Dabo Swinney said was “conduct detrimental to our program.”
The job belongs to either senior Cole Stoudt or freshman Deshaun Watson. It might be Stoudt’s to lose with his three seasons as Tajh Boyd’s backup and Watson’s lack of college experience.
After 15 spring practices, Swinney said the quarterback derby was too close to call in April and suggested it could continue through August and into the season.
Even after Kelly’s meltdown Saturday during the spring game, he remained part of the competition, though, as Swinney said, “he didn’t help himself.”
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Kelly threw a pair of interceptions, but that wasn’t going to tip the decision. The criteria included other aspects of their lives as citizens, students, players and teammates.
During the spring game, Kelly became animated with offensive coordinator Chad Morris and wide receivers coach Jeff Scott. That left Kelly not permitted to play in the second half. Swinney called it a “coaches’ decision.”
Apparently, Kelly allowed the matter to fester through the weekend. At a meeting Monday with Swinney, Kelly was dismissed him from the football team “for conduct detrimental to our program.
“He has had a pattern of behavior that is not consistent with the values of our program,” Swinney said in a release distributed after 5 p.m.
There were rumors of a parking lot incident after the game, but police said they had nothing to report.
“I hope he will mature and grow from this and become the man and player I know he can be,” Swinney’s release said. “I wish him nothing but the best in the future academically and athletically."
Kelly redshirted the 2012 season then sustained a torn knee ligament in the 2013 spring game that required surgery in May. He came back to play Sept. 7 against S.C. State and appeared in five games overall. Kelly completed 10 of 17 passes for 58 yards and rushed 16 times for 117 yards and a touchdown.
“Chad Kelly is an awful talented young man. (He) made a couple of impulse decisions today that were really out of character for him,” Swinney said Saturday. “He got frustrated today and reacted the way your leader can’t react. It’s that simple.
“He’s still a young player. A big part of this position is maturity and leadership and those are two things we’ve got to count on,” Swinney said. “Just didn’t like how he responded to Coach Morris and Coach Scott.”
Stoudt, the son of a former NFL quarterback, might have been the choice all along to start Clemson’s opening game at Georgia. Cool and steady, he seemed to be the leader that offensive coordinator Morris was describing when said he wanted a quarterback with an even disposition.
In limited duty he has been effective, completing 86 of 119 passes for 742 yards and eight touchdowns in 287 snaps over 22 games. He has thrown one interception and has a 145.1 efficiency rating.
The most prolific offensive player in Georgia high school history, Watson did not play Saturday after sustaining a cracked collarbone in practice early last week, but coaches and teammates said he was impressive and confident over the final two weeks of practice.