Dabo Swinney decided senior Cole Stoudt was the best option at quarterback for this week’s game with Georgia State, even if it might not be the popular choice.
“Whenever we have needed Cole Stoudt, he was always ready,” Swinney said Tuesday during his weekly media briefing.
“Has he lost some confidence this year? Probably,” he said. “Is it a difficult situation? Probably.”
After beginning the season as the starter, Stoudt’s season hit a low Saturday at Georgia Tech when he came off the bench and threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Anticipating the season-ending game with South Carolina, fans seem to largely favor giving relative novice Nick Schuessler a shot this week. Since there’s not a referendum, Swinney decided to stick with a young man who spent three years as the backup and started six games this season, rather than one with 38 snaps.
“I definitely hope to play him,” Swinney said of Schuessler, a redshirt sophomore from Grayson, Ga. “The more experience we can get Nick, the better.”
However, he added, “our objective is to go win the game.”
Fans and critics point out that Stoudt wasn’t able to win at Georgia Tech, and that as his performance has eroded so has his confidence. Over the past three games, he has thrown six interceptions.
Swinney acknowledged that, while rebuilding his confidence was critical, Stoudt was not to be held accountable for any of the three games Clemson lost this season.
“We’ve got everything we need to win,” Swinney said. “We’ve had one bad day.”
Freshman Deshaun Watson’s third critical injury in eight months was originally thought to be a season-ending ACL tear, but the diagnosis more than 24 hours after the Georgia Tech game was a sprained ligament and bone bruise. Another examination will be performed late this week or early next week.
“We were kind of expecting the worst,” said Swinney, who went to bed Saturday thinking Watson was done for the season. “He’s still got an injury. It’s just not what we thought it was.”
Georgia State (1-9) would seem to be a good test for either quarterback, whether to rebuild Stoudt’s confidence or provide Schuessler needed experience. The pressure should be minimal against Georgia State, which is allowing 44 points and 500 yards per game. And despite its prolific passing game led by quarterback Nick Arbuckle, the Panthers face the nation’s No. 2 defense.
Swinney was dismayed by a question about how fans might react to Stoudt, given the need to rebuild his confidence. Stoudt answered questions shortly after last week’s game but was not available to reporters after being named the starter.
“I think that is a shame that that question is even asked,” Swinney said. “They need to stand and they need to cheer loudly for Cole Stoudt.
“He did everything he could to help us win this year. He continued to have a great, right attitude. He continued to represent this program the right way,” he sad. “You’ve still got to celebrate what a young man has done in his career here.
“It is my hope that Cole will finish this thing great.”