Cole Stoudt spent his formative years 15 minutes from the heart of Ohio State University, so he understands the nature of an intense rivalry.
After 11 games of a senior season that tested his character, the notion of starting Saturday’s game against South Carolina and helping Clemson snap its five-game losing streak appeals to him.
“It would mean a ton to me, actually,” Stoudt said Monday. The previous three games he watched without taking a snap.
“It would be exciting to get the chance to go out and play in it,” he said. “It would be a very nice way to go out.”
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Though there were indications in the Georgia State game that Stoudt’s confidence was mending, nobody knows which quarterback will start for Clemson. Deshaun Watson returned to practice Monday night from a knee injury against Georgia Tech, but offensive coordinator Chad Morris intended to plan regardless of the starter.
“You really don’t know until he gets out there and see what he can do,” Morris said. “We’ve had several situations this year where you prepare for one plan and be ready to use the next plan. So, we’re actively preparing for any scenario that we have.”
Morris saw a flash or two from Stoudt – the bullet to Mike Williams for a touchdown and the way he dropped a pass down the chute that Germone Hopper dropped inside the 10-yard line.
“We’re going to have to do what we do,” Morris said. “If Deshaun’s in there, what can he do? Is he 100 percent? Is he 90 percent? Nobody knows that right now and probably won’t know that until later in the week. We know he feels good and is running around.”
Indicative of the decline in offensive production with Stoudt at quarterback has been the minimal presence of tight ends in the passing game. That, Morris said, is the result “of a lot of factors,” some – but not all – on Stoudt. Clemson opened the Georgia State game with four tight ends on the field.
“We were just trying to get the game going and get some confidence in our running backs,” Morris said. “Wanted to see if we could get the ball between the tackles a little bit more.”
Two weeks after a cameo appearance, redshirt freshman Tyshon Dye ran free and easy for a season-high 123 yards on 20 carries and showed no ill effects of back and Achilles tendon injuries that cost him nearly two full seasons.
“I thought he provided us a spark,” Morris said. “I think he took some pressure off of some other things.”
Dye and redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman offer an opportunity for a double punch in the run game against South Carolina. Gallman has rushed for a team-high 523 yards, which includes two games of more than 100.
Attracting conversation this week has been Clemson’s turnover issues during the streak: 15, including five in last season’s game, to South Carolina’s three.
“When you put yourself behind the eight ball against a quality opponent, it doesn’t really matter who you play, it’s tough to catch up,” Morris said. “We’ve proven that this year as well.”
Stoudt, who has thrown nine interceptions and six touchdown passes, said he has regained his confidence sufficiently to believe he can beat Carolina, though admitting, “I know I can’t do it on my own.
“I think we’re very capable of winning.”