By Will Vandervort.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney opened up his Tuesday press conference declaring Cole Stoudt as his starting quarterback for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff against Georgia State, and then ended it by defending him.
Despite completing just 3 of 11 passes for 19 yards and three interceptions in last week’s loss at Georgia Tech, Stoudt will start his seventh game of the season – the fourth start for the injured Deshaun Watson who has a sprained LCL.
“I like how (Stoudt) has responded in my meeting with him and then also coming back to work yesterday and last night. He gives us the best chance to win,” Swinney said.
Watson is listed as day-to-day according to Swinney, who said the LCL is just a sprain.
As for Stoudt, the Clemson coach said it is important the senior has a good week of practice and comes out of this week with some confidence. After being benched for a second time this season in favor of Watson he came off the bench for a second time in a game and struggled to throw the football and make good decisions.
He also had issues in the Tigers’ win over Louisville on Oct. 11 when Watson went down with a broken finger.
“Obviously, he had a bad day Saturday and the best of the best have bad days,” Swinney said.
Some people might say Stoudt had a bad month. In the last three games, he turned the football over seven times and against Georgia Tech two of his interceptions were returned for touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions against Syracuse and fumbled the ball once. The Orange kicked two field goals off those three turnovers.
But Stoudt has also had his moments, too.
The Tigers (7-3) won all three of his previous starts and he was named the offensive MVP in victories over Boston College and Wake Forest.
“We have seen him play better and we need him to play better,” Swinney said. “Everybody else has to help him play better, too. That’s all the position groups, coaches – everything. That’s not just on Cole.”
Swinney said Stoudt’s level of confidence is still a concern, but they are taking every action possible to help build that back up. He expects the fans to embrace the senior on Senior Day in helping to build his confidence, again.
“Why would we react bad to Cole Stoudt? Why, because he had a bad game,” Swinney asked. “We have had a lot of guys that have had bad games. This kid has given four years of his life to Clemson University.
“Has he lost some confidence this year? Probably. Has it been a difficult situation? Probably. But for our fans not to embrace this young man – okay you can be disappointed if he did not play well or something like that. But at the end of the day we are all supposed to be family and we have each other’s back.”
Swinney went on a rant defending Stoudt for nearly nine minutes during his 25-minute press conference.
“These young people are growing up where they are surrounded by negativity to the nth degree. It’s difficult,” Swinney said. “It is difficult for a young person that has not lived for a long time and maybe does not quite have the perspective on life as some of us that have been around a little bit longer and have been through some things.”
Swinney referenced New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a guy—even as one of the best in the game—that has a bad game or two every once in a while. Earlier this year, against the Kansas City Chiefs Brady, Brady had one of the worst games of his career as the Patriots were blown out.
People said the future Hall of Famer was done and the Patriots were on their way down. Since then New England has won seven straight games and Brady is having an NFL MVP type season.
“This world is full of quitters,” Swinney said. “The winners are the ones who do not get discouraged by their defeats. You name any of the greatest winners you have known in this world. They have all had massive defeats.
“But they did not get discouraged by those defeats whether it was Michael Jordan, John Wooden – all we know is that John Wooden won ten championships, but he went seventeen years before he won his first one. I’m sure he had lots of discouraging defeats along the way but he continued to let that develop him.”
“The best of the best can have a bad day,” he continued. “I’m not saying Cole is Tom Brady. The best of the best can have a bad day and certainly a college athlete can as well. How he responds to it this week, that is what everybody will see and I believe he will respond great.”